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Sunnyside Deputy Mayor: 'We haven't balanced the books since 2009'

Sunnyside Deputy Mayor: 'We haven't balanced the books since 2009'
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Sunnyside has faced its share of leadership and financial problems. But now it could be in trouble with the IRS. KIMA learned Sunnyside is piling up fines and penalties for not filing taxes, late payments and more.

"Every time I made a call, it became more and more disturbing," said Deputy Mayor Don Vlieger.

Vlieger called the Department of Revenue and the Social Security offices, among other agencies. Between late payments, interest and other fines, Sunnyside owes nearly $50,000. That doesn't include fines and penalties from Social Security. Fines that will certainly add up. The 2009 report is incomplete, 2010 is missing 35 W2's and until last month, 2011 had never been filed.

"What it shows is that we haven't been diligent in our payroll," said Vlieger. "We've made multiple mistakes month after month, year after year."

Sunnyside resident, Kacey Soto thought she knew what was going on in city hall. She had no idea about the unnecessary charges.

"Where's our money going," asked Soto. "Why are we paying you if you aren't doing your job?"

We asked Vlieger, "What would you say to a taxpayer who's worries about the state of their taxpayer dollars?"

"That's a tough question because I honestly don't even know how much money we have," said Vlieger. "We haven't balanced the books since 2009."

Vlieger says the responsibility should lie with the city manager. However, that position has seen constant turnover for years.

Interim City Manager John Darrington who didn't offer a real reason why, but says he's aware of the problems and intends to fix them.

It will be up to you, the taxpayer, to hold the city accountable.

KIMA also found out the Washington State Auditor's office is now examining Sunnyside's retirement payments. The city was assessed more than $13,000 in penalties and interest since 2011. About $2,000 was forgiven.

An audit last summer showed Sunnyside was still $600,000 in the hole. We'll let you know when this latest audit is complete.
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