District Knew Potter Was a Problem as Far Back as 2009
The program's former manager, Silas Potter Jr., was stripped of his ability to award small construction contracts in response to the warnings in January of that year. But the district allowed him to continue to award personal-service contracts and approve payments to small businesses that included minority- and women-owned companies, according to a recently completed state audit.
Despite a reprimand and directives to improve his performance, Potter continued to flaunt rules with little oversight, the audit found.
- Evidence has emerged that some district employees informed superiors about irregularities with the program but were brushed aside, said a source familiar with the matter.
Other employees had concerns but did not raise them because of "fears of reprisal," according to the state audit.
"We found that many District employees were unaware of the District's whistle-blower and anti-retaliation policies, or did not trust the policies," the audit said.
- "The reprimand also included an admonishment for testifying and lobbying in Olympia on behalf of the District on two occasions without approval of the District's Government Relations Department," the audit stated. Despite the reprimand, Potter contracted with consultants to meet with state legislators and testify in favor of legislation although he didn't have the authority to do so, according to the audit.
In a 2009 story on the consultant's report, the Daily Journal of Commerce in Seattle quoted Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Seattle-King County Building & Construction Trades Council, as saying some construction firms the district used weren't licensed and didn't do background checks on workers, including some who worked near children.
Newgent also told the newspaper some firms were doing work for which they weren't qualified and predicted criminal indictments "somewhere down the line."