This year, the environmental community is making protection of the environmental budget one of its top "priorities." The lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council told the Associated Press, "Many of these programs are close to being decimated."
Unfortunately, they haven't always been so careful about setting priorities, supporting budget expenditures in the past that were more about politics than environmental benefit.
In the third part of our series, we revisit an audit of the Puget Sound Partnership that shows the state’s lead agency on protecting the Puget Sound spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on self promotion instead of focusing on environmental restoration.
In the spring of 2010, the Washington State Auditor  released an audit, evaluating the use of public funds by the Puget Sound Partnership, the state’s lead agency on protecting the Puget Sound.
The Auditor’s office found “The Puget Sound Partnership circumvented state contracting laws, exceeded its purchasing authority and made unallowable purchases with public funds.” They went on to note that “The Puget Sound Partnership failed to enforce the terms of its agreements with a foundation it created, incurring costs without clear public benefit.”
Emily Johnson, who led the audit for the State Auditor, told KUOW :
“From their inception up until the date that we had finished the audit, there was just really no indication that they had ever made following state rules and regulations a priority….it is alarming and surprising. And as an auditor, in a way, you’re used to finding things like this, you’re just not used to finding this many things.”
Additional waste of taxpayer funds were also highlighted in the audit, including nearly $12,000 to purchase vests and jackets with the Partnership’s logo as gifts for supporters, and 5,000 lip balm sticks for promotional use. In all, the Auditor’s office highlighted more than $300,000 in questionable spending by the Partnership.
While the total value of waste might be small, it appears lawmakers took notice of the Auditor’s findings. In the 2011 Supplemental budget, the Legislature took $500,000  from the Partnership’s public outreach and education program.
Based on the results of the audit and the misuse of taxpayer’s money, it’s up to the Puget Sound Partnership to prove they care as much about taxpayer green as they do being green and that they have the best interest of Washingtonians and the Puget Sound in mind.