Auditor finds fault with Verdant – again

Commission says it is working to promote the public’s health
By Brian Soergel | Jun 08, 2017

Despite the State Auditor’s recent determination that Verdant Health Commission exceeded its statutory authority in 2016, Verdant says it is doing nothing wrong and will continue its practices.

Verdant, also known as Snohomish County Public Hospital District No. 2, serves more than 240,000 residents in Edmonds, Woodway, Brier, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and portions of Bothell and unincorporated Snohomish County.

It’s not the first time Verdant has clashed with the auditor.

“In (as the) prior audit,” the agency said in a letter to Verdant commissioners, “we communicated concerns that several programs exceeded the statutory authority granted to hospital districts under state law. While the District took steps to address our recommendations, we continued to note several programs that exceeded statutory authority in 2015 and 2016.”

Specifically, the auditor’s office found Verdant granted $82,484 to the following programs:

  • Swim lessons for the cities of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace: $45,484 for the introduction of basic swimming skills and personal water safety skills, and to help young people develop a lifelong interest in swimming.
  • Advanced Basics of Bicycling: $32,000 for the introduction of basic bicycle skills to students in the sixth through eighth grades.
  • Fire Prevention Program: $5,000 for the promotion and installation of smoke alarms.

These programs, the auditor reported, support safety and recreational activity, and do not provide hospital or health care services.

Verdant has a different take.

“We appreciate the recommendations in the recent management letter of the State Auditor’s Office,” Deana Knutsen, president of Verdant’s board of commissioners, told the Beacon.

“While we realize no formal response to the Auditor’s Office is necessary, we believe the three programs cited fall under injury prevention, and as such are in line with our statutory authority.”

Verdant Superintendent Robin Fenn said feedback from residents in Public Hospital District No. 2 about these programs has been favorable.

“We believe by preventing swimming injuries, bike accidents, burns and related deaths, we are fulfilling a role in maintaining the health and wellness of the community. We will continue to work in partnership with the State Auditor’s Office to come to a mutual understanding of our role.”

Indeed, Verdant makes numerous grants to help promote healthy lifestyles. Many go to nonprofits and government entities such as parks and school districts. It provides funds to the Edmonds School District’s “Move 60,” an after-school exercise program for students in the second through sixth grades.

In February, Verdant held its second annual Healthier Community conference at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

Verdant was created in September 2010 when Public Hospital District No. 2 entered into a lease and operating agreement with Swedish Health Services. Swedish now operates the acute-care hospital with 217 licensed beds, two primary care clinics, and an emergency department.

The district formed the Verdant Health Commission to work with the community to provide complementary health services and funding for priority healthcare needs.

In January 2015, Verdant opened a Community Health and Wellness Center. All programming is free or low-cost to residents, and supports healthy lifestyle choices.

An elected, five-member Board of Commissioners governs the District. Commissioners serve staggered, six-year terms.

Verdant’s stated mission is to improve the health and well-being of the community.

Report: code violations

In its report, the auditor cited two entries in the state’s RCW (Revised Code of Washington) that backed its claims. One authorizes “the establishment of public hospital districts to own and operate hospitals and other health care facilities and to provide hospital services and other health care services for the residents of such districts and other persons.”

Part of another entry states that the definition of health district, under “other health care services,” means “nursing home, extended care, long-term care, outpatient, rehabilitative, health maintenance, and ambulance services, and such other services as are appropriate to the health needs of the population served.”

Edmonds resident Carl Zapora was Verdant’s superintendent during the recent audits. He was responsible for the administration of the hospital district entity, financial and capital assets, and the development and launch of its health and wellness program.

He declined to comment on the auditor’s report, saying Knutsen and Fenn’s comments were sufficient.

Zapora retired from Verdant at the end of last year, and currently is board secretary for the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce. This week, Edmonds councilmembers confirmed him as one of five members of the reformed Salary Commission.

The State Auditor’s Office letter to Verdant concludes with: “We continue to recommend the District work with its legal counsel and other resources to evaluate all current and future program investments to ensure public resources are spent only on purchases and services that are within its authority.”



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