Forensic Accounting Analysis Released, Time To Pull The Plug On CRC

by lewwaters

See also for Forensic accountant slams high costs, low competition of CRC and Audio of testimony by Ms. Couch

After many months of work, Forensic accountant Tiffany Couch has released her CRC Forensic Accounting Analysis (81 page pdf)

Her work has “identified numerous significant questionable accounting and contracting practices involving the CRC.”

Today, January 19, 2011, she held a meeting in the Republican Caucus Room with Washington State Legislators where she shared her findings with “Representatives Armstrong, Clibborn, Harris, Moeller, Orcutt, and Rivers. Washington State Department of Transportation officials on hand included: David Dye, Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Steve McKerney, WSDOT Director of Internal Audit; and Bob Covington, Director of Accounting and Financial Services. CRC project office officials and staff were invited but chose not attend.”

As previously noted, Tiffany Couch was one of 15 speakers speaking at the Smarter Bridge Committee News Conference held last Thursday morning on the northern bank of the Columbia River, each expressing their own misgivings on the current project as planned.

Ms. Couch communicated questionable accounting practices on just where has some $150 Million of our tax dollars gone. She touched on this in the Executive Summary,

“As a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner it is my professional opinion – based upon the information I have reviewed, and measured against the continued difficulties I’ve experienced with Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project office members – that the accounting and contracting practices for the CRC project are characterized by irregularities and planning missteps on many fronts. The magnitude of these irregularities, in terms of quantity, amount, and qualitative aspects of the project, are more than adequate to indicate that this project is suffering from a severe lack of accountability, transparency, and oversight. It is my further opinion that these irregularities are of a sufficient depth to warrant an intervention on the project, and perhaps a termination or delay until procedures are in place that provide for centralized accounting and financial decision making, and compliance with federal and state contracting standards. Whether there is sufficiency to elevate these irregularities to a definition that would warrant the assertion of civil or criminal practices is not the subject of my comments today. Such definition could not be ascribed without further scrutiny and investigation. That responsibility from here forward falls to you – the elected officials who run these states – in your representation of your constituents, the citizens of Washington (and Oregon).

I have maintained for some time, based off of what I read in the Columbian, the Oregonian and the Willamette Week that an investigation is warranted and if need be, a criminal investigation conducted by the Department of Justice. That does not mean any actual criminal acts have been performed, but it would reveal just what has been going on.

We should not forget the rancor over a misplaced $100,000 in the city of Washougal just a couple years ago that resulted in a criminal investigation. Here we are concerned with over $150 Million so far!

Days ago the Portland Tribune published, “Irvington group gathers money for bridge legal fight Neighborhood coalition expected to appeal Columbia River Crossing to federal court” informing us the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods Inc intentions of “appealing the massive bridge project to federal court.”

Few people don’t agree that the bridge across the Columbia in the I-5 corridor shouldn’t be replaced, but we also acknowledge that the current $3.5 Billion to $10 Billion design is much more than is needed and will not decrease congestion through that area. Most admit if reducing congestion is really the overall goal, more bridges would be needed and a vast improvement would need to be seen in the I-5 freeway through Portland, Oregon.

There is also the matter of forcing Clark County resident’s to accept Portland’s financially struggling light rail extended into our community, even though 3 past votes have indicated we do not wish it to be brought over here.

Speakers at the Smarter Bridge Committee news conference also brought out that there are at least 3 other proposals in existence to deal with replacing the bridge at a reasonable cost and that might actually reduce congestion that have not been considered.

Citizen efforts at accountability have been ignored and ridiculed by community elected leaders with the willing help of the Columbian who once featured a front page article with photos of the citizens who most often question the project.

Successful businessman David Madore, who hired Ms. Couch to do the work the government should have been doing and reporting became the target of elected leaders and the Columbian.

To their credit, even the Columbian has began questioning and publishing editorials expressing misgivings on the project too, here and here. As strong of a cheerleader as the Columbian has been, to see them now making such a drastic turnaround screams for some level of investigation.

Little doubt that Vancouver mayor, Boss Tim ‘the liar’ Leave-it’ and county commissioner Steve Stuart will try to marginalize the report from Ms. Couch and continue trying to shove this project down our throats, whether we can afford it or even want it.

I hope that between the legislatures of both states as well as ODOT and WSDOT, this boondoggle will come to a screeching halt until questions are answered, proper accountability is put into place and if warranted, prosecutions taking place.

It can and must be done better.

58 Responses to “Forensic Accounting Analysis Released, Time To Pull The Plug On CRC”

  1. Lets hope something is done with the CRC.

  2. Until proper checks and balances are in place, the $ MILLION A MONTH in unaccoutable CRC spending should be halted.

    Until Clark County hold the promised vote on light rail, no further $$ should be spent on planning for light rail. Multnomah County got to vote on whether or not to introduce light rail there, don’t we deserve a vote?

    After all, it is light rail that is inflating the cost of the bridge and all the interchanges. If buses offer a less expensive, more flexible alternative that takes passengers to desired locations now and in the future, shouldn’t
    buses be considered duly with the same study effort that has been devoted to light rail? (With realistic population, traffic and job projections, not the hyperinflation used by the CRC)

    I hope Tiffany Couch will consider serving residents as an elected official as we need this kind of oversight.

  3. The Columbian with it’s couple of “johnny-come-lately” articles is just trying to cover it’s miserable ass, Lew. That’s obvious as hell. The Columbian knew damned good and well years ago that many things were “amiss” with the CRC but did everything it could to silence and belittle the critics of the boondoggle.

    The worst enemy this community has is The Columbian and it’s band of arrogant Elitists. It’s really a pity that the local newspaper is such a “tool” for the Establishment bastards.

  4. What I find ironic is in tonight’s Columbian, Wylie’s proposed bill targets government contract abuses

    If the CRC isn’t the poster child for such a bill, I don’t know what is.

  5. I have to ask, has Tiffany sent copies of this report to all of the area newspapers? There might be one out of the group that would report on it.

  6. I would assume so, Jack. At the very top of the report is, “While my work is funded by a private citizen, the results of my findings are not a private matter. My client wishes for any findings to be shared with the citizens of Washington and Oregon, their elected officials, and other interested parties who need the information to make informed decisions.”

    Whether they report it or not is another matter. I have also posted this at Victoria Taft’s.

  7. Lew, where can one find a copy of this report?

  8. I linked to it, Jeremy. CRC Forensic Accounting Analysis

    That is the pdf copy I was sent

  9. Thanks Lew. I really DID need this pick me up after 10 years of fighting…. THANK YOU!

  10. Boss Leave-it already dislikes it, even before he reads it. He commented to me this evening, (in reply to a comment left by me)

    Hey Lew…Boss Man here. No question there should be accountability and responsible oversight of government contracts. We agree there. Whether or not there has been a lack of such with the CRC is an unsubstantiated accusation. Even the “forensic accountant” has stated publicly that public accounting is not her expertise. In any event, I want to make a point about this in the larger picture of the CRC; using this matter as a reason to argue that the CRC is not necessary or should be stopped is nothing but a “red herring”. There is no correlation with the spending of money on the NEPA process and the purpose and need of the CRC. Do you agree with that?

  11. I’ve replied to Mayor Leavitt privately. I’m hoping he will be willing to retract his statements; especially after reading the report and documentation. I did send my report to all news agencies. And, of course, would be happy to send it to anyone who’se interested.

    All the best,

  12. Tiffany, I think you did a fantastic job an brought out many points that should be addressed.

    Thank you.

    I too hope the “mayor” rescinds his comments. It is unwarranted and beneath someone in public office.

  13. Monumental arrogance and a complete lack f concern for those wise enough to oppose this scam are hardly the tenets of character most people want in their elected officials.

    Leave-it COULD do us all a favor and resign… but we couldn’t be THAT lucky.

  14. I can’t make up my mind who is the bigger smartass, Leavitt or the cone-head Greg Owens wannabee that posted after you, Lew. Both are really arrogant bastards.

  15. Why would the mayor, especially one who won on a promise of “no tolls,” put himself in front of a train? He’s not a CPA, not even an accountant – how can he even presume to question a specialist’s expertise?

    As everyone knows, I’m pro-bridge. At any time during this process, those in charge could have admitted their true allegiances so that a real debate could be held. I’m a CPA/Professional Engineer/attorney, and I’ve tried to support this project but there were simply too many secret agendas.

  16. Jack, it would be difficult to best “mayor” Leave-it in the smartass department, but David Cone gave it a good try 😉

    Martin, if you asked around you’d find many of us labeled “anti-bridge” are not against a bridge, but the unneeded loot rail we have said time and again we do not want.

    In fact, the only thing I see that would ever relieve congestion will be a third or fourth bridge, which Portland & Oregon has fought for decades. It was a tough fight with them just to get the I-205 Bridge built.

  17. Ok, Phase out the Fourth Plain, Mill Plain & SR-500 and Marine Drive interchange phases to a later date? or possibly never, keep the light rail to Vancouver and cut the bridge project possibly by a 1/3…

    So tell me why NOW this bridge is worthy of our time and interest? Honestly, having been with this project for almost 10 years, why do I have my tomfoolery hat on and starting to sing and dance like idiot?

    No, this bridge has had enough. I’m now stating that unless this bridge has SOME good form to it, it needs go!


  18. Jack Says:

    January 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm
    I can’t make up my mind who is the bigger smartass, Leavitt or the cone-head Greg Owens wannabee that posted after you, Lew. Both are really arrogant bastards.

    Hillbilly, I don’t know what you are reading, but 1.) I didn’t comment on this article, and 2) I am in full support of the opposition to the CRC, as I have stated many times, and have commended Tiffany for her work on this issue as well.

    So, please tell, exactly what this comment of yours was about…

  19. If there was actually something of SUBSTANCE don’t we think it would be HEADLINE news already or brought out by her 81 page report.. This is all old stuff and inuendos.. Nothing new in the report.. Sorry but GARBAGE at best..

  20. Sally, feel free to report back to Boss Leave-it that we know better and ain’t buying the spin.

    Funny how your claim nearly mirrors his.

    Oh, maybe you should go look back at the Columbian editorials of late.

  21. Sally:

    Tiffany’s work is in-depth, detailed, and specific on the CRC. I have given her grief on other desktop analyses that she has done that don’t have all the information and didn’t have the time invested to make proper conclusions, but on the CRC, she is dead-nuts on. I am a Cost Accountant and understand the requirements of such analyses, having worked with engineering firms and construction contractors on many, very large projects. In very basic terms and at the very least, the financial bleeding needs to cease until the spending to date has been completely verified, and until the scope is more accurately defined. In my personal opinion, the project, in its present form, needs to stop.

  22. A person would have to be in obvious denial of the facts to conclude that there is nothing of substance in Couch’s report. The fact is Sally, there have been headlines in The Columbian (of all places) about this fiasco. Scott Campbell has been an ardent and committed supporter of CRC (and as far as I know still is), but even he can’t quash this story.

    Hopefully more light will be shed on the crooked goings-on with CRC and the whole plan will be shelved…and a certain company sued for about $150 million. Why on earth anyone would want to replace the I-5 bridge BEFORE building a 3rd (or even 4th) crossing is beyond understanding…unless you start calculating who actually benefits.

  23. The Wadot group who finally made it down here after so many years did not want to hear from Tiffany or myself for that matter with regards to the issues surrounding the brige project. The Mayor continues to state that his “firm” has no connection with the Metro or Tri-met entities while their own website shows both with a lite-rail car specialty overature. It is time for the liars and the thieves to get out of government now.

  24. Wow…I never thought Tiffany’s in-depth report would have affected the Columbian to write such articles as they have today…and for the editor to make a note about the percentage above their estimated costs incurred by DE&A…

    Hmm…could we be seeing the beginning of a transformation of attitudes by certain CRC/light rail promoters on the project??? Possibly one which will end up being a straight-across replacement without all the bells and whistles or none at all??? I can only hope.

    At least maybe accountability for costs incurred thus far will FINALLY come to fruition.

    (And Lou B…rather than just reading the comments and going for the little digs at me in the forum on the C, why don’t you join in for once here???)

  25. Out of curiosity, Sally…what brought you to the conclusion that there’s nothing new in the obviously detailed report by Ms. Couch and that you call it garbage???

  26. Tiffany, I personally want to thank you for all the hard work you have done on this! It doesn’t surprise me how this in power don’t want to admit the wrongs that are going on here due to they have allowed this to go on for decades! Feeding the hands that feed their treasure chests, so to say! Then there is the fact that Gov. will not do a thing to correct the wrongs and they are as guilty as those we find with their hands in the taxpayers’ pockets. I just laugh as, “they keep saying the Public is so ignorant they don’t know what is good for them,” as they steal us all blind! LR and the bridge project is just a cash cow for those in powers’ friends that they have lined up to pocket the money! Follow the money train.

  27. Greg Owens, I’m so sorry that you flunked reading comprehension. Maybe you just need new glasses. My comment was about “arrogant smartasses”. It’s pretty simple. Please pay attention.

  28. Lou B. is afraid to come here, Goldie. We don’t tolerate bullsheet.

  29. Tiffany, Lou had responded to a comment by me in the forum on his news website that he wondered if you would ever comment on whether or not it is a normal total markup by the company in question in your report. He stated it was noted that each billable labor hour was negotiated to be a factor of 204.32% (included in that was a 172.82% Overhead rate and a 31% fee).

    Now I’m no financial expert…not by any means, but I too am curious. Is this normal or is someone REALLY taking advantage of the federal and state funding being poured into this project???

  30. Jack, you made me smile (yet again) with your 4:48 pm comment. I’m sure he has a perfectly good reason…maybe like…not wanting to get caught saying something he might regret later??? At the C, he’s in his own element. Stepping outside the realm of the C might be a bit of a legal issue.

    I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, he’d know I was just teasing him at 2:12 pm.

  31. Hey Lou all I haer is CRICKETS coming from Timothy D Leavitt

  32. Timmy & I exchanged our usual “pleasantries” last evening on the Columbian comments,

    He and all other elected “rulers” are always welcome to comment here, but they will receive no more privilege than any other commenter.

  33. Which is exactly why the “rulers” are afraid to come here, Lew. Their “steaming piles” will get challenged and they know it. They would rather hide behind their gavels and “delete” buttons and think that they’re somehow “safe”.

    A real Leader would have the guts to take on the nay-sayers. These birds don’t because they know they’re full of crap. By not coming here, they’ve already admitted that they’re WRONG.

  34. Real leaders would have explained this boondoggle adequately if it really had any merits to it instead of shoving it down people’s throats.

    Watch now as Leave-it’s sock puppets come out of the woodwork on the Columbian to discredit Tiffany’s work.

  35. Lest anyone should get “ideas” that The Columbian is “waking up” a bit, please note that the article about Tiffany’s report wasn’t on the front page as other articles about the CRC have been.

    Any “irregularities” in a $10-plus billion dollar project affecting little old Clarke County damned well deserves front page coverage. The Columbian isn’t about to have a hand in informing the community of anything negative about the project, yet puts anything “neutral” or “positive” about it right on the front page in front of God and everybody.

    That really says it all. The biggest local enemy Clarke County has is The Columban. Period.

  36. Not to be defending them, Jack, but I didn’t receive a copy of the report from Tiffany last evening until almost 6 PM.

    We’ll see what is on tomorrows front page.

    They didn’t do their article until this morning where I did mine late last evening.

    I don’t believe they have turned their backs on the project yet or even if they will.

    But you are correct in that this report deserves spread far & wide.

    I’m looking forward to CRC & WSDOT efforts at CYA expected pretty soon.

    It’s also why we cannot let up on the pressure to them either.

  37. Thank you for all of the support. The comments here are interesting and fun to read. There were some questions about the overhead and profit rates. I want to be clear that I only pointed those out to the the legislators, so that they could be aware of the terms of the contract. I was told by off-the-record sources that the overhead percentage seemed within line but that the 31% overhead was extarodinary. Evidently, most engineering firms would get 10% or much less in overhead on private sector work. I cannot speak as to whether or not this is a problem. My job is to point it out. Thank you everyone.

  38. HI Lew,

    I think I’ve been banned, but thought you would be interested in this:

    Ever since the switch to Facebook, I’ve seen very dodgy results from the Columbian. I’m suspicious they’re offering up bogus results so people refresh the screen, which of course increases the hit count. Tinfoil hat time?

    To reproduce, I’m running Firefox with AdBlock, Ghostery and NoScript. I’m interested in what your readers see…

  39. Josef, as you can see, you are unbanned.

    You will remain that way unless you decide to filibuster in comments again by ignoring points while demanding yours be addressed.

    It’s a two way street. Your points, even in opposition will be addressed. But for a discussion to move forward, you also must address points.

  40. Thanks Lew. IMO the earlier debate (if I can call it that) between us was unresolved.

    You advocated the ideology of JFK: “voluntary” support of the State.

    I disagree with that opinion, and instead support individual Liberty.

    I look forward to examining exactly what your philosophies are.

  41. Josef, pay attention to what I write and you should have a clear understanding of my philosophies.

  42. Oh, boy, here we go. In 11/23 12:36 you stated:

    “In fact, it is you who owes society, not society owes you!”

    I fundamentally believe the citizens owe the govt *nothing*. I view the govt as a (somewhat) necessary evil. I find it astonishing that someone who advertises themselves as conservative would think an individual owes society.

    By your own statement, above, it seems you disagree with my position.

    Romney vs. Paul? I see Paul as an advocate of individual liberty. I see Romney as an advocate of big business.

    PS – can you add a “search” capability to the website?

  43. There has always been a search capability, but you needed to scroll pretty far down. I have moved it towards the top.

    Hate to tell you, but even with individual liberties we still owe a certain amount to society. Not necessarily taxes, but in some manner to keep society functioning properly. If not, we descend into anarchy which would destroy liberties across the board for virtually everyone.

    I can understand you desiring to promote your position, but this post is a discussion on CRC and what has been discovered by Tiffany Couch’s forensic audit of the documents provided her and I would like to keep it to that. There are other posts and will be more soon where we can discuss the candidates.

    You have every privilege to support whomever you wish, but in my view, Ron Paul is as batshit crazy as I have ever seen.

    I currently am not seeing any of the others all that favorable, but Ron Paul is not even on my sonar, having looked at this past candidacies and claims made over the years.

    If your desire is to promote Ron Paul, do it elsewhere.

  44. Hi Lew,

    Nope, I’m not a Paul-head, or whatever the term is.

    I’m sort of astonished the Columbian saw fit to even report on her report. I’d love to know why they saw fit to run the story.


  45. I cannot answer as to “why,” but I imagine they knew it was something that was going to be put out there and if they didn’t cover it also they would be left in the dust.

    Last Thursday there was a news conference held by the Smarter Bridge Committee outlining several problems and alternatives that have been ignored. 90% of the people speaking were from Oregon who is expected to also pay for this mess and who is indicating they just might not.

    I don’t know that the Columbian is taking a turn on it and expect when WSDOT & CRC issue their counter to Tiffany’s report, they will give it a little better coverage.

    Time will tell.

  46. Thanks Lew. It will be interesting to see if the Oregonian covers the story as well.

    Also, one more request – rather than diluting a thread w/ extraneous comments, can you add a “contact” method to your site? There’s been some stuff I think you would be interested in, but I didn’t want to dump it over your site… Thanks!

  47. Tiif – We’ll just see how the state legislators take your report and use it. According to Lew’s blog or somewhere else, Jim Moeller and several other local state legislators were at the meeting you were at to answer questions and talk about your report.

    This effort produced at least one bill by Sharon Wylie about state contractor abuses. Now the local bloggers and folks know more about the situation that the CRC project.

    Now it is up to our local leadership at the state and local level to react… And it is our job to hold their feet to the fire if *WE* think they won’t due what is right by us.

    And I doubt a county of four hundred and fifty thousand is going to be able to be stopped by a simple lawsuit by David Evans and Associates like they aimed at you and Debbie Peterson. That little political game I believe confirmed further that they might have got their hands caught in the cookie jar and it possibly may put a black eye on them for future contract work.

    I am now watching the local politicians and see how they will react to the news of your report. Let us who is coming out, willing to discussion the issues or is just simply willing to hide out and not face us as voters or comes up with gimmicky cries for help.

    Honestly, after ten years of my life wasted following this project night and day, I’m not willing to tolerate much more obfuscation and political games trying to move this project forward.

  48. Tiffany, I so appreciate you explaining the issue about the overhead. Again, I want to thank you for the diligence in the job requested of you AND the fact that you have gone public, responding to those with questions. You’re one in a million!

  49. Still not wanting to defend, face it they have a long ways to go to earn the public’s trust, but the Columbian did make the article front page and the headline today.

    Comments included from the likes of Jim Moeller and some others within the articles updated version should be very disturbing to all of us, considering they were elected in some cases to represent our best interests.

    “We just disagree with every one of her accusations,” state Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said.

    “In a project of such huge scale and complexity, at least some errant billing and bookkeeping is inevitable,” said Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver.

    “I’m not worried that there has been fraud or malfeasance at any step along the way,” Moeller said, adding he feels the project has operated transparently.
    Moeller questioned Couch’s objectivity, noting her work is funded by a vocal CRC opponent in Madore. That’s enough to put her credibility in doubt, he said.

    “I think that Tiffany is doing the job she was hired to do,” he said. “And that’s stop the project.”

    Leave it to Moeller, who has caused more harm to the state taxpayers with his incessant push for more taxes and homosexual marriage over fixing a $1.5 Billion budget gasp to impugn someone elses integrity with such a cheap shot.

    What integrity does Jim Moeller have?

  50. There’s nothing worse than having someone (especially a public official!) attempt to impugn my professional ethics and reputation by saying that my credibility is in doubt simply based on WHO is my client. As a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner….and a small business owner….my entire livelihood hinges on my ability to remain neutral and maintain professional skepticism. It’s just utterly disgusting that they would imply that I would do anything different. I also really look forward to the Couv.Com posting the entire audio of the meeting. What you will hear will be the antithesis of Ms. Hammond’s comments. You will hear legislators getting angry. You will hear lots of words from the WSDOT representatives….but you won’t hear answers. Nor, will you hear them address any of my issues specifically or with their own professional skepticism. I had hoped to find answers from them….even tried to talk to them after the meeting. The comments in the paper today….were non-answers.

  51. It’s about time that The Columbian did something it should have done long ago. That’s “one” mark on the scoreboard.

    Moeller is just another arrogant individual who thinks people “like” smartasses. I’m sure he kisses his mirror each morning.

  52. Well everyone, Bojack had a post and thread that is starting to remind me of Vancouver. Though this post is not about Vancouver, some of the comments from it are so like our growing downtown and its politics.

    Thought you guys might be interested in reading it….

  53. I am glad there are people in our community with courage to stand up for what is right. Thank you Tiffany Couch, Lew Waters and everyone else that is demanding accountability on this bridge project. There are many citizens who agree with the approach you are taking.

  54. Yes, I agree. I like seeing citizens stand up and hold their legislators feet to the fire. And democracy is a messy process. Now my new question is, will Tiffany’s presentation make the changes that we all hope for?

    And I’d like to know from David Madore if he’s going to post the FULL audio or video off youtube file of that presentation unedited, so we can here how it went. I don’t want to hear a 3 min snippets with audio commentary like what you find on NBC news…

  55. Jeremy, I believe you can now find what you’re looking for…… >


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