Updated December 3, 2023

The King County Auditor’s Office (KCAO) was tasked by the KC Council to conduct an audit of code enforcement in the Department of Local Services-Permitting Division (DLS-P). According to King County Councilwoman Perry: “This is important because the Code Enforcement (CE) section engages with residents on sensitive environmental and community issues, working in a high-volume, high-risk atmosphere. Several previous analyses made a variety of recommendations for process improvements, but it is unclear if managers have implemented those recommendations and to what extent they produced positive results for residents, the environment, and the code enforcement program.”

The Scope was to review the work of the DLS-P and its Code Enforcement Section in implementing the county’s code compliance program under Title 23 of KC Code, focusing on cases opened between 2015 and 2023.

The Objectives were to determine to what extent: (1) Has CE implemented strategies recommended in previous studies and provisos, and what are the barriers to implementation and results of the progress they made?; (2) Is complete and reliable data available to drive efficient, effective, and equitable code enforcement operations?; and (3) Does Code Enforcement clearly communicate with and educate residents about code enforcement processes and penalties?

On November 14 the KCAO released its Audit Report and made subsequent presentations to two KC Council Committees: Government Accountability & Operations (on 11/14) and Local Services & Land-Use (on 11/28). Several Joint Rural Area Team organizations, including the Area Council, provided Oral Testimonies at the latter committee meeting. These testimonies generally presented the following key points regarding DLS-P: (1) Made it into a profit center, i.e., incentivized to issue permits, by The KC Council; (2) Doesn’t enforce all conditions on permits; (3) Doesn’t seriously enforce haul-route agreements; (4) Doesn’t always enforce against primary land-use violations; (5) Doesn’t use tools it has available from KC Code Title 23; (6) Doesn’t recoup some of is costs; and (7) Conducts selective code enforcement/non-enforcement.

The Area Council believes DLS-P needs: a new Mission Statement with clear definition of Customers, i.e., the people of KC; a new Organizational Structure—one not siloed into and based on Product Lines; a Budget that does not limit enforcement of Code and imposed permit Conditions; and a Mandate to not issue Conditional Permits for Industrial / Mining activities it cannot enforce either due to limited budget or priorities, as the safety of the people and their shared environment must be a paramount focus.