Sunnyside interim city manager speaks to KIMA about $600,000 deficit

Sunnyside interim city manager speaks to KIMA about $600,000 deficit

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- It took a week of calling and requesting an interview, but Action News finally sat down with interim city manager Frank Sweet to talk about the cities financial problems.

A state audit released last week revealed Sunnyside is $600,000 in the hole.

The city also mishandled its money by moving utility funds into the dwindling general fund.

The report was clear. $600,000 in the hole, financial mistakes cast doubt on Sunnyside's leaders.

KIMA tried repeatedly to get answers from the interim city manager, Frank Sweet, and  were ignored until now.

Reporter: What took you so long to sit down with me?

Sweet: "I guess the biggest thing is I believe in talking to people when you've got things under control. You've got a plan you are going to."

After reviewing the audit, Sweet says that plan is starting to take shape. Sweet has only lead the city for four months.

He can't be blamed for the problems, but it's his job to fix them.

Reporter: You say checks and balances. What exactly are some of those checks?

Sweet: "We now have accounts payable reviewed by our assistant finance director before they are ever paid."

As interim city manager he will be responsible for reviewing payroll. There will also be monthly meetings and reports with the finance department.

"We're going through looking where we can change, reallocate resources, where we can save," Sweet said.

What about the mishandled money? In two years, the city moved $3 million from utilities to the dwindling general fund.

Reporter: So you can promise citizens that that will no longer happen unless there is a reason to do it?

Sweet: "Absolutely, Absolutely. There will be no charges to any enterprise fund that's s not supported. Period. and I will review those."

Sweet says he will keep employees under a microscope and track every cent spent.

Reporter: For the people who say, 'How can I be sure that from here on out the city of Sunnyside is going to handle my money correctly?' What do you say?

Sweet: "I can guarantee you that. The council will be involved. The staff will be involved. We have monthly reports to the council. Monthly reports to a subcommittee, a finance subcommittee. And I can guarantee that that won't happen."

Sweet said he will have a more defined plan by mid September. He guarantees the changes will fix all the problems with the budget. Action News will check back then to make sure all of those promises are kept.

The city has already found savings when it comes to their ambulance service.

Frank Sweet says they'll save nearly $300,000 next year. His goal is to make the deficit zero for the 2013 budget.