Clallam County land-use director denies any wrongdoing as investigation grows

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — An investigation into an overtime complaint has grown into a review of allegations that Clallam County land-use director Sheila Roark Miller used her office for personal gain and ordered the backdating of a building-permit document so it complied with the county's new Dungeness water rule.

Clallam County Administrator Jim Jones confirmed last week that county Department of Human Resources attorney Akin Blitz has expanded his investigation into the Feb. 21 whistleblower complaint concerning overtime and is reviewing the building-permit file that contains the document in question.

Blitz, a Portland, Ore., attorney who has hired former FBI investigator and federal prosecutor Kenneth Bauman to assist him, is reviewing “allegations of, essentially, corruption or self-dealing,” Jones said.

Jones defined self-dealing as “where there is misuse of the position for your own benefit.”

Blitz said Friday his investigation is being coordinated with the state Auditor's Office and the state Attorney General's Office.

He expects the investigation will be completed by May 31 and that the investigative report eventually will be made public.

“The attorney general as well as the state auditor will be receiving a copy of Mr. Bauman's report and be relying on it either entirely or initially to determine whether state law was violated within the jurisdiction of either or both the state auditor and attorney general,” Blitz said.

Janelle Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office, said late Friday afternoon that she was unable to reach the agency's prosecutorial unit for a comment on the investigation.

In an interview Thursday, Roark Miller, the only elected director of a department of community development in the nation, defended herself and her department.

She won election to the post in November 2010 after 21 years as a department employee.

The backdating allegation is separate from the overtime complaint and grew out of Blitz's initial efforts to delve into the Feb. 21 complaint.

Roark Miller was said to have required one of her employees to backdate a building-permit document for a Sequim-area business so that permit applicant would not be subject to new water-use rules for the Dungeness River watershed from Bagley Creek to Sequim Bay, Jones said.

Roark Miller responded: “There is not much I want to say short of that there is not wrongdoing going on at all in our department.”

Last week was the first time Roark Miller had read the actual complaint, she said.

The Feb. 21 complaint contains several allegations.

Roark Miller denied the assertion that she ordered an employee to work and not record the overtime, and did not specifically respond to an allegation in the complaint that she was not charged an additional fee for a weekend inspection.

She would not comment on the permit-backdating allegation.

“I am confident everything will turn out to the public's satisfaction,” Roark Miller said.

“We process applications and issue permits in a reasonable and judicious fashion, and it will all come out in [Blitz's] report when they finish it by the end of May.”

A copy of the complaint was obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under the state public records act.

It alleged that Roark Miller asked an employee to work Sunday, Jan. 20 — during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend — by inspecting a job site where she has an active building permit and that she told the employee not to record the overtime.

If true, it would be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The person who filed the complaint, whose name was redacted from the copy obtained by the PDN, also alleged that Roark Miller was not charged an additional fee for getting the inspection over the weekend.

“Our director has an active building permit and seems to be utilizing her power in order to get special privileges that are not granted to the public,” the person who filed the complaint said in the document.

The person also alleged that Roark Miller knew that new windows at her building site did not meet code egress standards but that Roark Miller insisted they did meet those standards.

The allegation about the building permit relates to the new Dungeness River watershed rule, which since Jan. 2 has required property owners to buy water mitigation credits if they tap into existing wells or dig new wells.

“The allegation was, a document was alleged to have not been just backdated but changed,” Jones said.

“The person put the current date on it, and she said change it to the previous date.”

Jones said the backdating, by itself, does not mean wrongdoing occurred.

“They might have lost the paperwork, or it might have gone to the bottom of the stack,” Jones said.

The state Auditor's Office has assigned a fraud investigator to monitor the investigation.

Jones said the half-page Feb. 21 complaint, which was emailed to county Human Resources Director Rich Sill, was not investigated by Sill because Sill is the DCD's former code compliance officer and worked in the same department as Roark Miller, the former fire marshal in DCD.

In addition, because the complaint also contained the whistleblower issue involving overtime, the entire complaint was turned over for review by Blitz, Jones said.

Whistleblower complaints rise to a higher level of review than Human Resources and must be referred to the state Auditor's Office, Jones said.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 12. 2013 2:00AM
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