Coupeville's hand slapped over bonuses

Town of Coupeville got a slap on the wrists by the Washington State Auditor for how it distributed bonuses in 2011 and 2012.

In an audit report released March 29, the auditor’s office noted the town paid its employees extra compensation which is not allowable per Washington State Constitution.

It wasn’t that the money was paid, said Mayor Nancy Conard, but in how it was paid.

“I’m so disappointed we had a finding,” said Mayor Nancy Conard. “We hadn’t had one in years.”

Conard said she was surprised to get the finding because the town went to great lengths to ensure the funds were properly distributed.

In 2011 the council decided to give cash payouts in the amount of $1,200 to each employee as a way to compensate for not having a cost of living increase since 2008.

Conard said she wanted to give one big payment as opposed to monthly smaller payments because it would make more of an impact.

Paying a bonus was also a way to give a one-time pay increase without an ongoing revenue commitment, Conard said.

The total amounts paid were $20,451 in 2011 and $16,373 in 2012.

Prior to paying the bonuses, Conard said the town consulted its attorney as well as state offices.

“I thought I’d had it all perfectly handled,” she said. “So we did it again the next year.”

What the auditor’s office noted in its finding was that increases in compensation should be prospective and not after services are rendered.

The bonuses were seen as additional pay for services already rendered.

“It wasn’t wrong to pay them, just the schedule,” Conard said.

The auditor’s office recommended the town implement new policies and procedures as a way to ensure future compliance.

Conard said she doesn’t know if council will approve future payments.

“I don’t know if we’re going to do it again, but if we do, we won’t do it the same way,” she said.


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