Politics & Government

Audit of state historical society finds problems, leads to ethics fine

State auditors say the Washington State Historical Society needs to better track its equipment and collections as well as keep closer tabs on purchases charged by employees.

An audit released this week found the historical society — which manages the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma and the State Capital Museum in Olympia — needs to better track its equipment and collections worth more than $5,000. It also needs to better track smaller items worth $300 or more, the auditor’s office wrote.

Auditors also said the society needs to have more control over the use of purchase cards. They found that employees were allowed to buy items with the cards with little oversight as long as the purchase did not exceed the departmental budget.

The historical society told auditors that high staff turnover in the 2012-13 fiscal biennium led to the loss of staff who would have been able to catch these deficiencies.

The audit also turned up evidence of misuse of state equipment that the State Auditor’s Office referred to the Executive Ethics Board for review. In an agreement with the Ethics Board last month, Tamara Georgick, information technology manager for the society, agreed to pay a $2,000 fine for using state resources for her personal benefit and in support of a nonprofit organization.

The agreement says Georgick’s state computer contained 35 documents relating to a Tacoma nonprofit spay and neuter clinic. She also used the computer to send or receive 119 emails related to the charity. Another 797 personal emails unrelated to the charity were also on the computer.

The ethics board noted that the Historical Society paid for a tablet and cellphone for her use, but she pays for Internet and cell service for those devices using personal funds. She told the Ethics Board that she did not edit the documents while at work.