The Sequim Vehicle/Vessel Licensing office will remain open following a temporary restraining order issued today in Clallam County Superior Court.
Court Commissioner Pro Tem William G. Knebes issued the order after Karen Shewbert’s attorney, Craig Miller, petitioned the court.
The order will remain until Wednesday, May 16, when Miller and Mark Nichols, Clallam County chief deputy prosecuting attorney, will argue over whether a preliminary injunction should be issued to keep the office open pending an appeal of the contract termination.
Nichols objected to the temporary restraining order, calling it a “flagrant attempt” to prevent Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand from performing her duties.
Shewbert said the office will operate as usual until the court rules otherwise.
by AMANDA WINTERSSequim Gazette
The Sequim Vehicle/Vessel Licensing office will close at the end of business Thursday.
Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand, whose office oversees the Sequim sub-agent location, said the closure is mainly for contract noncompliance issues surrounding financial reconciliations.
“My decision to terminate the contract was not undertaken lightly,” she said. “Recognizing the inconvenience that would result to the citizens, as well as employees in the county Auditor’s Office who will be required to process additional licensing transactions in the absence of the Sequim licensing sub-agency, I spent significant time and energy attempting to fashion a solution that would prevent me from needing to terminate the contract.”
In Washington, vehicle licensing sub-agents are private businesses that contract with county governments to provide vehicle and boat licensing services on behalf of the county and the state Department of Licensing, Rosand said.
Letters given to the Sequim Gazette by Sequim sub-agent Karen Shewbert show tensions had been mounting between her and the county Auditor’s Office for some time.
Shewbert, who began functioning as the Sequim sub-agent in September 1999, said her office began having problems with the Auditor’s Office following Rosand’s election in 2007.
The most recent dispute, according to the correspondence, involved disagreement over whether or not 31 titles were rejected erroneously by the state Department of Licensing and county Licensing Manager Lila Duncan during two separate audits, as well as Shewbert’s bank reconciliations for the Sequim office. Rosand said financial records were not handed over to her, as she requested in several letters.
“In the end, I was unable to obtain financial records to which I am entitled under the contract and which are necessary in order for me to meet my contractual obligations to the Department of Licensing,” she said.
On Tuesday, Shewbert said her attorney will file for an injunction in court this week to try and to stop the closure. Shewbert said her filing will show a pattern of harassment from the Clallam County Auditor’s Office over a six-year period.
In a Dec. 14, 2011, letter to Shewbert, Rosand expressed concerns about the rejection letters received from the State Department of Licensing after title work audits were conducted by the state for a two-week period in August 2011. She also enclosed a spreadsheet from the state Department of Revenue showing financial problems.
“These letters demon-strate that SVVL is improperly utilizing bills of sale, certificate of facts and proper signatures,” she wrote. “They further demonstrate that SVVL is not consistently charging required taxes that are due to the State of Washington.”
She requested Shewbert come up with a corrective action plan and submit it in writing within 30 days. Rosand also requested bank reconciliations for review, which she said she first requested in September 2011. Rosand requested they be provided within 15 days.
Shewbert responded that the State Auditor’s office accepted her bank reconciliations in a spreadsheet format but her computer program became corrupted and she was in the process of getting a new one to simplify review of her bank records.
On Jan. 6, Rosand wrote that she still had not received the bank reconciliations.
Shewbert said on May 8 that Rosand receives the Sequim office’s bank statements monthly and she doesn’t understand what Rosand wanted with the bank reconciliations.
Shewbert responded to the Jan. 6 letter by stating she normally receives three or four rejections per year and questioning whether her county supervisor, Duncan, erroneously rejected the titles reviewed during the audit.
“I am troubled with your continued request for my check registers,” Shewbert wrote in a Jan. 20 letter to Rosand. “I mailed them to you after complying with the state audit and then you criticize them as not being acceptable.”
Shewbert said her solution was to transfer the check registers to a different computer program and the records would be sent to Rosand when her accountant completed the transfer.
In a list of the title rejections from both the state and the county supervisor, Shewbert listed 31 rejections and claims eight were rejected in error by Duncan and seven of the state’s rejections were cleared as correct. Thirteen were rejected correctly, according to her account. She also provided a four-point corrective action plan.
At the end of the letter, Shewbert accused Rosand of “nitpicking” the office and wasting county employee time and taxpayers’ dollars. Shewbert said she believed the “unjust attacks” on her office were a concerted attempt to close the office and put Duncan in as a new sub-agent for Sequim.
“If it appears that there is no immediate resolution to the issues outlined herein above, I will be forced into legal remedies,” she wrote. “The ball is now in your court.”