City of Kent gets surprise $237,535 bill

The city of Kent just got stuck with an unexpected bill of $237,535.

For at least the past six years, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) failed to bill the city for electronic home monitoring equipment used by the city jail officials to monitor offenders released from jail.

Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas revealed the mistake during a budget request to the City Council's Operations Committee on July 1 to pay for the bill.

"Our bill including taxes was $312,000," Thomas said to the committee. "(Acting City Attorney) Pat Fitzpatrick was able to negotiate that down to $237,535."

Since 1992 Kent has operated under a contract with WASPC to provide certain electronic home monitoring equipment for use by the city jail for a monthly fee. The program utilizes GPS and breath testing equipment in the home to track offenders.

The WASPC advised the city recently that it had stopped billing the city for at least six years even though it still provided the equipment, according to city documents. The city did not make any payments because it wasn't billed.

"As a result, for at least six years, the city received equipment for use in its electronic home monitoring program but did not pay for it," Thomas said in a memo to the committee.

Mitch Barker, WASPC executive director, said during a phone interview last week that nobody could figure out how the error happened.

"We don't know why it was missed all those years," Barker said. "We can't explain it. Our auditors looked at it and every month we didn't bill them. We were perplexed. We don't know how we missed it."

Barker said a staff member discovered the mistake when a city of Kent employee ordered several monitoring bracelets. When the staff member went to bill the account, no account could be found.

"It was then revealed they had not been billed," he said.

Fitzpatrick reviewed the matter and determined the city was in a poor position to refuse payment for the benefits received, Thomas said.

"This payment settles all amounts owed under the contract and will bring the city up to date on payments due to the WASPC," Thomas said.

The committee voted 3-0 to approve the $237,000 budget request, which will come from an extra fund balance out of the general fund. The city has extra funds because it has more revenue coming in than initially projected and has met its reserve and emergency fund balances.

Barker said audits showed that WASPC didn't fail to bill any other cities, just Kent.

"There was no foul play," he said. "It was an inexplicable error."


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