Changing the Atmosphere in Washington State

January 7, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

With a new year, time marches on and things change. After 34 years in public office, Brian Sonntag will be leaving his position as the state auditor for state of Washington, moving on to become the chief financial officer of The Rescue Mission, which helps the hungry and homeless in the Tacoma area.The Seattle-Tacoma News Tribune’s Political Buzz blog recently ran an intriguing, question-and-answer blog post featuring Sonntag. The post actually included questions and responses from Sonntag that didn’t make the publication’s original feature. In one question, Sonntag was asked what audit brought forth the most meaningful change. Sonntag replied that his office conducted a huge performance audit on the Port of Seattle several years ago, and issued a report he deemed “pretty contentious” because there was “a lot of pushback on the part of the port.” Sonntag said his office found about $95 million had been misspent in contracting, and the auditor’s office made several dozen recommendations.Sonntag noted that the port has since implemented almost everything his office recommended including creating a contract compliance officer. “Heck, they even record their executive sessions,” he added in his response. “It is such a different atmosphere at the port right now, and that’s what we were after.”Later in the post, Sonntag was asked what his advice would be for his successor. His response was simple – “to listen.” “I think that’s critical, that you listen to the people who you work with, the people who you audit, those other public servants around the state, and you also listen to the public,” he states in the blog post. Such good advice. I would hope other public officials would do the same.

We wish Sonntag well in his next endeavor and hope the income state auditor, Troy Kelley, can follow in his footsteps to ensure public funds are spent appropriately.

Do you have any advice of your own for state auditors? Let us know.

Photo: Brian Sonntag courtesy of the Tacoma-Seattle News Tribune

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