State Auditor Addresses DEP's Lack of Violation Tracking System

Morgantown Dominion Post
27 May 2009
By David Beard

The state legislative auditor took the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to task on the first day of legislative interims for the way the DEP handles Notices of Violation (NOVs).

Auditor Aaron Allred said the DEP lacks a tracking system to follow how many NOVs it issues, and if all fines have been paid. His office presented the report to the Post Audits Subcommittee on Tuesday.

Allred said police departments, for example, use numbered tickets to track citations and when and if fines have been paid.

Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan and subcommittee chairman, said he's seen reports indicating the DEP has assessed fines that were never collected. "How do you know who's collecting what?" he asked.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman told the subcommittee there are several reasons the DEP doesn't have a tracking system:

* There are several inspectors, and it would be too hard to use numbered forms.

* Many NOVs don't lead to fines, or lead to reduced fines. Some violations don't carry fines; sometimes the NOV just serves as an incentive to comply, so a fine never becomes an issue; and sometimes a third-party negotiator whittles down the fine. He added that inspectors don't determine the fine's amount or collect the fine. But if the party complies, the inspector may never even file the NOV with the department.

Numbered citations, he said, would be "adding to bureaucracy without any real benefit."

Allred told the subcommittee that the DEP needs to create with some kind of internal controls to ensure that all proper actions are taken.