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Audit will start early in Langley

LANGLEY — Citizen complaints about what’s happening at city hall have prompted the state to start its official audit of Langley early, city officials said Monday.

The state auditor had planned to conduct a review in 2011, but the calls for an earlier review — instigated by Langley resident Hal Seligson — have helped change the timing of the audit.

A preliminary audit of Langley is expected in the next few weeks.

The announcement followed a growing chorus of advocates for an independent audit.

Seligson, the former chairman of the city’s Planning Advisory Board and a twice-considered council appointee, led the charge for the review. Seligson said last week that the review was needed to answer unresolved issues in Langley.

Much of the ongoing brouhaha has centered on the city’s spending practices. Controversy erupted in earnest in early July, when Langley’s elected leaders learned that City Finance Director Debbie Mahler had asked the county prosecutor to investigate “improper actions” by Mayor Paul Samuelson.

Concerns over the mayor getting full-time pay while on vacation in California were followed by reports of the city overspending its budget for attorney fees and doing unbudgeted repair work at the Second Street fire hall.

Langley spent more than $7,300 on legal fees for personnel issues during the five-month span of December 2009 through April 2010. July’s attorney bills totaled $10,595. The city had budgeted $12,108 to cover legal expenses this year.

Most recently, the city has come under scrutiny for the costs of its contract with Langley’s building official.

Council members, and the mayor, initially resisted the audit, citing the cost to the city and the difficulty in handling the review while the 2011 budget was being prepared.

Nonetheless, the drumbeat for an early audit has thumped steadily and stronger as time has passed. Last week, Councilman Russell Sparkman added his support to the idea.

The city is audited by the state on a two-year cycle. Some in Langley, however, have expressed concern that the 2011 audit would not be released until after next year’s elections.

Officials with the Washington State Auditor’s Office could not be reached Monday for comment.

Langley was last audited by the state in the summer of 2009.

That audit covered the time frame of Jan. 1, 2007 through Dec. 31, 2008.

The audit did not raise any issues publicly that the city needed to address, though the audit did mention non-specific items that were mentioned to managers at city hall.

“In most areas, the city complied with state laws and regulations and its own policies and procedures,” the audit said.

During the past 12 audits, the state has only issued two audits with “findings” — problem areas that the state makes public. The problem audits were issued in 2004 and 2006.

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