Flowers, lunches, gifts; State audit questions spending

Flowers, lunches, gifts; State audit questions spending »Play Video
BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- The state is questioning the way money was spent for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center. It uncovered tens of thousands on flowers, gifts and lunches.

A multi-million dollar project is plugging away near the river. It will be the site of the new Hanford Reach Interpretive Center. Most of the project is paid for by you through the sales tax, hotel tax, and also private donations.

So it's unsettling to find the State Auditor questioning tens of thousands in spending on things like flowers, meals, membership fees. It happened under the old leadership.

Reporter: "Why should the public feel confident in your leadership now?
CEO Lisa Toomey: "I think this is about rebuilding trust and we've worked very hard to do that over the past two years."

Lisa Toomey knows she has her work cut out for her. She took over in January 2012 as the new CEO of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.

"I knew that there were issues, I mean clearly there were issues, for me, my big question was the money that was raised and the money that was spent, what was it spent on?" said Toomey.

Lisa agrees that spending was inappropriate. Those gifts went to folks who had a role in memberships for the center. Trying to woo donors was a big goal when the project was once valued at $4.2 million. That's now been cut severely to just $3.7 million. Lisa and her team were responsible for that decision.

The CEO wants it to be clear that the irresponsible spending was done in the past, during a time which she called the old project.

Reporter: "Is it bothersome to you that the accountability just falls onto you even though this took place in the past?"

Lisa Toomey: "Yeah it was a conversation I had with the auditors but the bottom line is what happened, happened. And what they found out is true. We have to accept responsibility for the truth but we also have to take steps to rectify that and that's what we've been doing for two years."

Moving forward is the only option now.

The Reach is operated by the Richland Public Facilities District. The auditor had a number of suggestions to be sure spending is transparent. The CEO tells KEPR she intends to implement the recommendations from the state.