VADER - A Vader City Council member's arrest Thursday on a methamphetamine-possession charge is the latest in a series of setbacks and unusual events in the town of about 600 residents, about 50 miles south of Olympia.
Rodney Allison, 47, was stopped by a Vader police officer Nov. 27 for allegedly driving with a suspended license. According to charging documents, the officer found a plastic bag with an unknown white substance in Allison’s pocket. The bag was sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, where prosecutors say it tested positive for meth.
Allison said he likely will plead innocent.
Mayor Ken Smith said he will withhold comment as the case against Allison moves forward. He said the arrest is another challenge for Vader, which already is steeped in financial difficulties and is battling a deteriorating water system.
Last month, a new report released by the Washington State Auditor’s Office confirmed that the city has been in dire financial straits.
The most recent audit of Lewis County’s smallest and southernmost municipality reflects the city’s finances from calendar year 2008. The auditor’s office wrote in its report that because of incomplete and unsupported records, it was unable to determine what the city spent in 2008. It ended 2007 $9,863 in the red.
That’s nothing new for Mayor Ken Smith and the city council, which has been grappling with the financial crisis for the better part of three years.
A previous clerk-treasurer did not properly update council members on the city’s revenues and expenditures, Smith said when the city found out it owed its creditors $135,000 late last year.
A previous audit report found the city had been running through $70,000 in savings a year since 2003. Smith said the city has repaid about $50,000 to creditors, who he thanked for having patience with the city.
Vader was issued similar findings recommending an increase in internal controls in both 2006 and 2007, but according to the auditor’s office, those were never implemented.
Smith said in March that measures have been put in place to present another financial mess. Those measures, according to the city’s response in the report, include the discharging of two city employees found responsible for all aspects of Vader’s finances in 2008, the establishment of an internal audit committee, training in accounting for council members, a contract with a certified accountant to review the city’s financial statements monthly and new purchasing procedures.
HUB OF ACTIVITY DEMOLISHED
The gymnasium at the Vader Elementary School, a hub of many of the town’s activities, was demolished in November 2006 after two construction bonds to replace it failed. The gym, which was built in the 1920s, was condemned in December 2005.
SCHOOL DISTRICT DISBANDS
The Vader School District disbanded in 2007 after three failed levies left the district unable to pay its bills. The Castle Rock School District absorbed Vader; Castle Rock is about 10 miles to the south.
WATER SYSTEM PROBLEMS
Three months ago, Lewis County commissioners voted unanimously on a measure to become a co-applicant to help Vader secure a grant to help fund the city’s underperforming sewer and water systems.
Lewis County Community Development Director Bob Johnson said the state could condemn Vader’s water and sewer system if they are not brought up to code and that the move would help the financially troubled city.
Commissioner Lee Grose said the county will continue to help, but it needs to see a firm plan in place on Vader’s part to resolve the issue before getting more involved.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ALLISON
Allison, who was elected to the council weeks before his arrest, wouldn’t answer directly when asked if he has used methamphetamine.
“I’ve done stuff in the past, a long, long time ago,” Allison said. “I have nothing to do with this.”
State law requires the removal of an elected public official who is convicted of a felony while in office, Prosecutor Michael Golden said Thursday. Olympia Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman Joe Hyer resigned April 9; he faces three felony charges for allegedly selling marijuana.
Allison has no prior felony convictions and could be prosecuted under the state’s first-time-offender law, Golden said.
The Daily News of Longview contributed to this report.