Forensic Auditor Tiffany Couch speaks before the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee “Listening” Hearing, October 7, 2013 held in Vancouver, Washington.
An Independent Conservative Voice for Clark County
Forensic Auditor Tiffany Couch speaks before the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee “Listening” Hearing, October 7, 2013 held in Vancouver, Washington.
The Columbia River Crossing Project, a bloated effort to replace the aging spans of the Interstate Bridge connecting Southwest Washington and Portland, Oregon and force Clark County Washington to accept extending Portland financially ailing light rail was considered a “done deal,” just accept it, it’s happening, regardless of how the taxpayers that will be forced to foot the bill for decades thinks of it.
For a long time we have heard from the likes of Mayor Tim Leavitt, former Mayor Royce Pollard, Representative Jim Moeller, County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Portland’s former Mayor Sam Adams, current Portland Mayor Charlie Hale end many more ego-inflated elected officials that our resistance to “modernization” was futile, “it’s coming, deal with it.”
While most of us agree replacing the bridges is a good idea, we in Clark County have long resisted the notion of we must accept Portland’s deep in debt light rail. And the tide just may be turning as more and more, we see former supporters switching to opponents as efforts to peel back the shroud of secrecy that has long enveloped the CRC is back and light is shined on some very questionable procedures.
Not even a month into his term as our newest County Commissioner and already David Madore is acting on his campaign promises, standing up for Clark County citizens and bucking the light rail swindle from Portland into our community, just as we asked him to do when we elected him.
As can be expected, that is not setting well with the ruling class elites pushing light rail in order to gain access to our revenues to bail out their deeply indebted transit folly, now sitting at about $1.6 Billion and growing every day.
We elected David Madore over keeping Marc Boldt and together with fellow conservative Tom Mielke, have a fighting chance to see some accountability where the CRC swindle is concerned.
Knowing now that our County Commissioners will stand on the side of citizens over the special interests of the CRC swindle, we can expect volleys of attacks aimed at the County Commission and they have already started.
It is no secret that much of Clark County, Washington holds a very negative view of the Columbia River Crossing project (CRC). The more the layers of this scam are pulled back, the more we appear justified in our disdain for what more and more comes across as a massive swindle to suck revenue out of our own cash-strapped community and give it to Portland, Oregon to help with the massive debt, some $1.6 Billion and growing daily, associated with their bloated light rail line.
Even though Clark County citizens rejected extending their folly into our community in 1995, the push has continued to force Clark County to accept it, even to the point of gerrymandering a sub-district in 2005 in an effort to ‘fix’ the vote to approve a C-TRAN sales tax increase perceived to be a back door funding of light rail that was rejected county-wide in the November 2004 election.
Once again we witness efforts by the few in Southwest Washington to circumvent voters, ignore our votes and lobby funds the state does not have to forcibly ram Portland’s financially beleaguered light rail on us and into our community.
It is Kelly Parker, President/CEO Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce who has sent out an email soliciting signatures from selected business owners with the Greater Vancouver area to show support for the Columbia River Crossing Project and light rail, even though voters have clearly said we do not want it in proxy votes, such as the recent defeat of C-TRAN’s Proposition 1 to fund operations & maintenance by a sales tax increase.
Parker’s email bypassed numerous businesses, such as Acuity Group PLLC, a Forensic Accounting Firm in Vancouver hired to independently audit CRC’s books and that was met with foot dragging, a huge document dump, usually designed to confuse and overwhelm, lack of cooperation and even a lawsuit from a contractor to inhibit access to some documents that might show where some $160 Million of our tax dollars has gone, seemingly targeted to those few who may profit from the project or who would merely pass along any expense to taxpayers, already bearing the brunt of the multi-Billion expense.
Submitted by Tiffany Couch
Are you confused by the conflicting statements related to C-Tran’s Proposition 1 initiative? Some have said that the initiative will give the Agency “twice as much money as they need!” Others have said, “the sales tax is not enough!”
So what are the facts?
In my business, the numbers tell the story. And thankfully, C-Tran has reported numbers which tell voters how the agency intends to use your sales tax funds.
Just a year ago, C-Tran came to the voters asking for a .2% increase in sales tax, claiming the funds were necessary for the Agency to maintain current levels of bus service. The initiative was passed, providing C-Tran with an investment of $10 million annually from local taxpayers.
It is well known in our community that the newspaper of record, the Columbian is wholly in the tank for the Columbia River Crossing Project and forcing Portland, Oregon’s financially ailing light rail into our community. We have all seen how they minimize red flags raised, such as the Coast Guard’s refusing to sign off on the design due to insufficient river traffic clearance and even comments left by supporters that barges and ships that may require more than 95 foot clearance, such as the Columbia River Dredge, should cut down their masts or whatever extends higher to clear the light rail planned to be hung underneath the new bridge on a lower level.
Recent revelations by forensic accountant Tiffany Couch of Acuity Group LLC has indicated, through her independent audit of hundreds of documents several red flags, including a potential violation of state law, huge cost overruns potentially not be handled properly and even Millions on cost appearing in CRC documents that appear to be marked to fund expansion and improvement projects inside Oregon, several miles outside of the CRC Transportation area.
This blog covered the first of the three reports released so far here and here. Additional coverage can be found at Couv.com as well as looking through Clark County Politics, both of whom have given the CRC as much critical coverage as I have, if not more.
Thanks to the work of forensic accountant Tiffany Couch and County Commissioner candidate David Madore, the veil wrapped around the Columbia River Crossing Project is gradually being peeled back, not that you will ever read of word of it in the local newspaper of record, the Columbian.
While the Oregonian, the Reflector and the Willamette Week have all published articles and reports critical of the CRC, the Columbian continues to provide cover, ignoring or minimizing recent reports and evidence uncovered and released by Ms. Couch, writing them off as “more of the same.”
They are not.
A previous report covered the potential violation of Washington State Open Meetings Laws, but a subsequent report released on October 12, 2012 delves even deeper into the darkness we have seen associated with the CRC.
Ms. Couch raises several questions that remain unanswered and, not even asked by the Columbian who proudly boasts on their front page, “Serving Clark County, Washington.”
Just who in Clark County is served is debatable.
“A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it’s going to get.” – Ian Williams Goddard
“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.” – Gore Vidal
The Columbia River Project, known by the acronym CRC, is once again scurrying around acting defensively as more light is shined on the project. Just like cock roaches scurry away when a light is shined on them, pundits supporting the boondoggle project are lining up and making excuses for the latest revelation on the project, potentially violating public meeting laws and deliberately discouraging public involvement.
Acclaimed Forensic Accountant Tiffany Couch, of Acuity Group PLLC in Vancouver sent out her latest report last evening, along with exhibits that include internal memos from the early days of the project citing discouraging public input.
The announcement said,
“After conducting an in-depth assessment of various documents, conducting public records requests, and analyzing comments made during public meetings, Ms. Couch has identified areas of concern with regard to a decision making body called the Project Sponsors Council as well as potential violations of the Washington State Open Public Meetings Act.”
It seems there is hardly ever a city council meeting in Vancouver that we don’t hear of BRT, LPA, CRC, LRT, C-Tran or any other maze of abbreviated acronym for any number of projects favored by Vancouver Mayor, Tim Leavitt and 4 other members of the city council, Jack Burkman, Jeanne Harris, Bart Hansen and Larry Smith.
Rarely do we hear relevant questions coming from any of them as to just how they expect citizens to pay for all of these “pie in the sky” projects apparently believing each is the only thing citizens will be paying for.
Public hearings have all of the appearance to be shams, held only to satisfy a legal requirement to allow citizens to speak while those same citizen concerns remain ignored by the cabal as they ram full speed ahead with little or no clue on just how these many projects favored by the council majority will be paid for.
Only two council members seem willing to get down to the nitty gritty of asking how such projects will be paid for with both, Jeanne Stewart and Bill Turlay being kept in a minority as the rest come across as their minds being firmly made up to forge ahead long before any public hearings are held.
The Columbian’s political page editor, John Laird, known for his acerbic and outlandish editorials every Sunday has shown he knows how to push the community’s buttons over the years. A staunch liberal apparently, he has shown himself to support and promote just about anything liberal Democrats desire. About the only time he has shown himself to be agreeable to a Republican or conservative point of view was when they crossed the aisle to adopt the Democrat point of view.
Like most liberals I have spoken to, his idea of “bipartisanship” or “Compromise” appears to be when conservatism is abandoned and liberalism embraced. It never seems to cross in the other direction in his editorials.
But I was somewhat taken aback to read his Sunday, March 3, 2012 editorial, ‘Puppet’ accusations don’t always hold up to scrutiny where he is defending Republican first term Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wa. 03) against frequent allegations of her just being a “puppet.”
In the political sense, a puppet is “a person, group, government, etc., whose actions are prompted and controlled by another or others.” Many of Herrera Beutler’s actions do give that impression to conservatives. From her time in the Washington State House of Representatives where she co-sponsored and twice voted to approve a bill that would have forced child care centers into union to crossing the aisle to help Democrats raid the last $120 Million from the state “Rainy Day Fund,” claiming she did it to prevent further tax increase. Taxes increased anyways.
She has shown herself to be an “establishment Republican” more so than a conservative Republican. Hence, many label her a “puppet” doing the bidding of others to retain her “cushioned seat of authority” at $174,000 a year salary plus generous benefits.
The excessively high cost and expense of the Columbia River Crossing project is no secret. This blog, other Conservative blogs such as Clark County Politics, Couv.com and even the Columbian sometimes have spoken about it.
The Oregonian, Willamette Week and the Reflector in Clark County have lent their voices to the problems seen by citizens and some elected officials, to no avail. Any and all voices are written off as “designed to stop the project” of replacing the aging Interstate Bridges and dragging Portland’s financially ailing Light Rail into Clark County, even though 3 times in the past voters indicated in election we did not want it.
Tiffany Couch, the forensic auditor stands behind her report.
Couv.com recently informs us of how business owners downtown Vancouver are being left “in the lurch” as CRC admits their scheduled date of 2013 to start likely will not happen until 2014 or later.
They also inform us of officials looking for new ways to squeeze funds out of citizens for transportation upgrades, realizing there just is not funds readily available in this “Great Recession.”
So what possible problem could Portland’s TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane see that hasn’t been already seen?
Undaunted by questions and growing opposition from taxpayers, the Columbia River Crossing and C-Tran continue to forge ahead with the multi-billion dollar project, ignoring or casting aside just about every single concern of taxpayers, business owners, elected officials, engineers, just about any and every person looking at this albatross and our economy and saying, ‘wait a minute.’
As was previously shown, an independent analysis of CRC finances raising several pertinent questions was instantly dismissed and the forensic accountant hired to wade through a “document dump” received through a FOIA request disparaged and demeaned.
As evidenced by the following Columbian video, Washington State Department of Transportation Director Paula Hammond makes no bones in her criticism of the analysis,
As readers will recall, Independent Forensic Accountant Tiffany Couch raised a few eyebrows and caught the attention of legislators, business owners and taxpayers when she released her independent analysis of the CRC’s handling of taxpayer dollars so far. The release of her report, covered here showed several irregularities in just how monies have been spent and accounted for, leaving several questions unanswered.
For full audio and the Powerpoint Slide presented by Ms. Couch, please visit Couv.com
As could be expected, CRC supporters began dismissing and marginalizing the Independent Forensic Analysis almost immediately with the Columbian, a long time cheerleader for the project publishing numerous articles in favor of the CRC, including supposed benefits to the community.
Most notably among the long time supporters is Democrat 49th legislative district representative, Jim ‘da candyman’ Moeller stating, “In a project of such huge scale and complexity, at least some errant billing and bookkeeping is inevitable,,, I’m not worried that there has been fraud or malfeasance at any step along the way,,, the project has operated transparently.”
Moeller went on say, “I think that Tiffany is doing the job she was hired to do, and that’s stop the project.”
Of all of those wishing to minimize what Ms. Couch uncovered, candyman seem to be the most critical of her personally and his cavalier attitude over accounting irregularities has not set well with the community, prompting letters to the editors of the Columbian here, here and here.
The last link is to an LTE by small business owner Dave Joliette of Vancouver who finds Moeller’s cavalier attitude completely unacceptable and expressed more than what the letter published can show due to limitation on length of all letters submitted to the Columbian.
Dave sent me a copy of his original letter to the editor last week and knowing that the Columbian declines to publish LTE’s posted on blog sites (yes, they monitor us), postponed mentioning it, deferring to the Columbians much larger subscribership.
Robert Dean, know for his humorous posts here concerning the state of our community in regards to CRC also has very serious side and is very serious on concerns of the potential damage this massive, overly expensive project could cause our community.
With the release of Forensic Accountant Tiffany Couch’s assessment of CRC handling of financing and seeing how WSDOT and CRC are going into damage control mode, we taxpayers who will be forced to pay for this monstrosity deserve answers, not more rhetoric.
In that light, Dean has addressed many of these concerns with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler in a letter he has authorized to be shared with the public.
See also Couv.com for Forensic accountant slams high costs, low competition of CRC and Audio of testimony by Ms. Couch
After many months of work, Forensic accountant Tiffany Couch has released her CRC Forensic Accounting Analysis (81 page pdf)
Her work has “identified numerous significant questionable accounting and contracting practices involving the CRC.”
Today, January 19, 2011, she held a meeting in the Republican Caucus Room with Washington State Legislators where she shared her findings with “Representatives Armstrong, Clibborn, Harris, Moeller, Orcutt, and Rivers. Washington State Department of Transportation officials on hand included: David Dye, Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Steve McKerney, WSDOT Director of Internal Audit; and Bob Covington, Director of Accounting and Financial Services. CRC project office officials and staff were invited but chose not attend.”
As previously noted, Tiffany Couch was one of 15 speakers speaking at the Smarter Bridge Committee News Conference held last Thursday morning on the northern bank of the Columbia River, each expressing their own misgivings on the current project as planned.
Ms. Couch communicated questionable accounting practices on just where has some $150 Million of our tax dollars gone. She touched on this in the Executive Summary,
“As a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner it is my professional opinion – based upon the information I have reviewed, and measured against the continued difficulties I’ve experienced with Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project office members – that the accounting and contracting practices for the CRC project are characterized by irregularities and planning missteps on many fronts. The magnitude of these irregularities, in terms of quantity, amount, and qualitative aspects of the project, are more than adequate to indicate that this project is suffering from a severe lack of accountability, transparency, and oversight. It is my further opinion that these irregularities are of a sufficient depth to warrant an intervention on the project, and perhaps a termination or delay until procedures are in place that provide for centralized accounting and financial decision making, and compliance with federal and state contracting standards. Whether there is sufficiency to elevate these irregularities to a definition that would warrant the assertion of civil or criminal practices is not the subject of my comments today. Such definition could not be ascribed without further scrutiny and investigation. That responsibility from here forward falls to you – the elected officials who run these states – in your representation of your constituents, the citizens of Washington (and Oregon).
In interesting poll put up by David Madore on facebook.
He asks, “Care to say who you would support for county commissioner position 1, north county in 2012” and gives the choices of Tom Mielke or someone else.
He also asks, “Care to say who you would support for county commissioner position 2, east county in 2012” and gives the choices of Marc Boldt or *gasp* David Madore.
It is unknown at this time whether he intends to challenge Boldt, or if he is just playing with Lou Brancaccio over his Saturday Column, Press Talk: Politics and baseball in River Citywhere Lou opines about Commissioner Marc Boldt’s surprise no vote on the recent Admissions Tax defeat,
“So what happened? Politics. Another definition of politics, one that some would argue is the most important definition, is this:
“I need to get re-elected.”
The election looms in 11 months. And whom does he see as a possible — likely — candidate in his rear view mirror?
None other than one of the most high-profile guys around.
In a way, I hoping he is trying to make Lou sweat a little, but I’d vote for A successful businessman like David in a heart beat.
I do not see Tom Mielke being voted out and don’t have a clue who the Dems will run against him to try.
Feel free to take David’s polls and come back and comment on your choice, if you choose.
Submitted by Professor Robert Dean
Boldt: Hello! Commissioner Marc Boldt here. What can I do you for? (Aside: I always like to have a little fun with people).
Caller: Marc, Jeff Hamm.
Boldt: Jeff Hamm?
As we know, Forensic Auditor Tiffany Couch issued an analysis recently critical of C-Tran finances and their claims of needing more revenue they seek in Proposition 1. It goes without saying that the Columbian, our local mouthpiece for any pro-Democrat, pro-CRC, pro-Light Rail or pro-C-Tran measure would do what they could to discredit it, which they did in their hit piece, Analysis questions C-Tran’s financial claims; agency fires back
Included in the article is C-Tran’s critical response here, in essence labeling her a liar while the article itself seeks to taint her work due to her being separately hired by local businessman and the Columbian’s ‘boogieman’ David Madore to perform a Forensic Analysis of the Columbia River Crossing, a completely separate agency.
Ms Couch’s report is here
Tiffany Couch has now issued a rebuttal to the C-Tran claims of her not using complete numbers, numbers they provided to her and their effort to label her work incomplete that you can read here
Rebuttal of C-Tran claims:
It is no secret that I oppose giving C-Tran another single dime of our hard earned tax dollars. I have also maintained we are not being told the truth and that the threats of cuts in service now are fearmongering.
Forensic Accountant, Tiffany Couch has prepared a Financial Analysis based upon personal meetings with C-Tran Officials and auditing what documents have been turned over to her pertaining to C-Tran Finances.
From the Executive Summary,
“My analysis and meeting with C-Tran officials indicate the following:
1. Proposition 1 funds are not necessary for C-Tran to maintain current levels of bus service.
2. If C-Tran maintains current levels of bus service, and foregoes expenses related to High Capacity Transit (HCT) initiatives, reserve funds will remain intact through 2023.
3. If Proposition 1 fails to pass, current C-Tran board policy indicates that High Capacity Transit project costs will take higher priority over current levels of bus service; causing bus service to decline or to be eliminated.
4. C-Tran’s 20 year plan, “C-Tran 2030” is significantly at risk due to overestimated revenues and underestimated expenses.
We have been denied a vote we were promised, C-Tran continues running empty buses that are not on the cut list and as many have maintained, we can now see just how far off they are in their estimates of needing more of our money.
I urge you, if you haven’t already voted, please vote NO on Proposition 1. Force C-TRan to operate within their means and if need be, reorganize into an efficient bus service for Clark County.