Attorney: Boldt did not violate state ethics law in Lifeline vote

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt did not violate any laws when he voted this week to approve a loan to Lifeline Connections, a county attorney said Friday.

Dawn Boldt resigned her position at Lifeline Thursday, the day after her husband voted with Commissioner Steve Stuart to approve a $190,000 loan to the county’s only inpatient substance abuse treatment center for adults.

The appearance of the conflict of interest was referenced in her resignation letter, as she wrote her decision to resign “will be beneficial to my life as well as the agency.”

Lifeline, which operates out of the county-owned Center for Community Health, has a contract with the county to treat drug court participants.

Dawn Boldt worked as an intake coordinator, or, for the purposes of the state’s ethics policy for municipal officers, a fixed-wages employee.

Had she been a salaried employee — such as the executive director — there would have been a problem, said Bronson Potter, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor.

But according to the ethics policy, Boldt’s interest was only “remote.”

County commissioners will vote Feb. 21 on whether to give a larger loan to Lifeline.

Boldt said the vote to lend the initial $190,000 will be recertified by Stuart and Commissioner Tom Mielke, who was out of town Wednesday.

Boldt and Stuart determined the loan, which Lifeline needed to make payroll, was an emergency measure to help an organization that provides an essential public service. Had Boldt not voted, the loan could not have been granted.

On Thursday, after his wife had resigned, Boldt said he would like the county to have clear guidelines on whether commissioners’ family members can work for agencies that contract with the county.

He said his wife started as a volunteer at Lifeline, then accepted a job as an intake coordinator for private-pay patients.

Before approving the emergency loan Wednesday, Boldt and Stuart were briefed by Dr. Gilbert M. Simas, Lifeline’s medical director and interim executive director, about Lifeline’s cash flow problem.

The private, nonprofit agency has had a rough time transitioning to predominantly private-pay patients, which it is doing to earn enough money to subsidize public patients since funding from the state has been cut. Private insurance companies take up to four months to pay for services. On top of that, an outside billing agency that Lifeline used to use did not bill for four weeks’ worth of patients in December and January. The bills for those services — which totaled approximately $450,000 — have been sent out, but it will take awhile before Lifeline gets paid.

Simas said Lifeline has had internal problems since its executive director left Dec. 31.

In a worse-case scenario, Lifeline would need as much as $750,000 to get through the next few months.

The loan came from the county’s general fund.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.