- Associated Press - Monday, May 7, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A Washington state corrections facility inflated its budget projections and violated state purchasing guidelines, according to an internal review.

About $145,000 of Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s purchases since 2016 were made outside of state guidelines, the review found.

Failure to follow those guidelines could “severely compromise” the agency’s operations, according to the review.

The minimum-security facility about 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) southwest of Olympia also inflated some of its projected expenditures, the review found. In budget documents, the excess money in those inflated numbers was referred to as “sprinkles,” in an attempt to “hide/tuck money away to then purchase goods without the proper approvals.”

When asked whether the Department of Corrections has received a full explanation for the practice of creating “sprinkles” in the budget projections, spokesman Jeremy Barclay wrote in an email to The Seattle Times , the term “sprinkles” is not an official term used by the department.

Cedar Creek Superintendent Douglas Cole is the subject of an ongoing ethics investigation, Barclay said, but “there are no initial findings that suggest any criminal action.”

A voicemail left Friday at a phone number believed to be Cole’s was not returned.

The review found that Cedar Creek officials split purchases into incremental amounts at lower dollar numbers to avoid getting required approval by higher-ups or putting the purchases out to bid.

In one case, the purchases of multiple furnaces were spread over four separate billings that totaled $18,600, according to the review. That total cost would have required approval from the department, which would have obtained bids for them.

The maneuver likely violated state purchasing guidelines, and Department of Corrections probably “would have received a reduced price” if the furnaces were purchased together.

In another example, Cedar Creek officials spent $14,200 on snow-removal equipment for a John Deere tractor, spreading the purchases across two separate billings.

That move appeared intended to avoid headquarters approval and a possible rejection because of budget constraints, the review said.

In another case, Cedar Creek officials bought $24,000 worth of mattresses, which were not on the “ready list” and which exceeded Cole’s purchasing authority as superintendent. Cole was authorized to purchase up to $10,000 in “routine goods and services” at a time, the review said.


Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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