New Drainage District 5 commissioners take the reins

Three new commissioners were appointed to King County Drainage District 5 in Enumclaw

Three new commissioners were appointed to King County Drainage District 5 in Enumclaw following the resignation of two commissioners earlier this year as a result of a corruption scandal.

The new commissioners are David Ballestrasse, Mark VanWieringen and Alan Predmore, all born and raised in Enumclaw.

The three were introduced as King County Councilman Reagan Dunn’s appointees for the commissioner positions during a June 24 King County Local Services department meeting. VanWeiringen and Predmore were present at the Local Services committee meeting on June 24, while Ballestrasse called in.

“These are heroes who are willing to step up and serve,” Dunn, who represents South King County and Enumclaw, said.

Predmore said he has lived in Enumclaw his whole life and serves as the city of Buckley’s fire chief. He said he heard about the drainage district scandal through the media and thought he might be able to help.

“It seemed like a good place to use some of my problem-solving skills,” he said.

VanWiringen also grew up in Enumclaw and works for the city’s natural gas utility. Ballestrasse is also a lifelong Enumclaw resident and owns and operates a business in the city.

“I felt like I could offer my services to try to help straighten it out,” Ballestrasse said of the district.

Other council members commented on the difficult job these three commissioners will be taking on, since former Commissioner Allan Thomas is under investigation for allegedly stealing at least $413,000 from taxpayers over eight years.

“You are very brave to take on this at a time when things are not rosy,” said committee and county council member Kathy Lambert.

In a 2019 Washington State Auditor’s report that appeared to confirm Thomas misused hundreds of thousands of dollars, investigators recommended new Drainage District 5 commissioners should seek reimbursement of the money that was allegedly misused.

But what commissioners may decide to do with any reclaimed money is up in the air — two potential options would be to give a small portion of that money back to the roughly 600 residents of the drainage district, or to use any money for drainage ditch maintenance, since little work on the 18 miles of drainage ditches the district is charged with up-keeping appears to have been done in the last decade.

Another task set before the new commissioners is archiving the district’s records. It’s a process which Lambert said is different for special districts. Dunn promised King County would be available to provide technical assistance as the commissioners tried to set the district in order.

Ballestrasse, VanWieringen, and Predmore will continue to act as commissioners at least until the next special election, slated for Feb. 4, 2020. Any resident of Drainage District 5 who owns land in the district is allowed to run for a commissioner position by filing for election between 30 and 60 days before the election.

Although Drainage District 5 appears to be back up and running, developments surrounding former commissioner Thomas have been few and far in-between.

Despite the Washington State Auditor’s report and numerous investigations, including the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the FBI, Thomas has yet to be charged with any crime.

Dunn spoke on this point during a June 25 town hall at the Enumclaw Expo Center’s Field House, saying he believed the county’s prosecutor will make the decision whether to charge Thomas in a couple of weeks.

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