Politics & Government

Auditors fault South Puget Sound Community College for serving alcohol

South Puget Sound Community College violated a ban on alcohol in the workplace, state auditors have found.

State Auditor Troy Kelley’s office determined a caterer served alcohol at the college’s annual employee-recognition event this year. The college was closed for the afternoon event May 9 on campus but workers were paid to attend, officials told auditors.

College President Timothy Stokes approved allowing the alcohol, which was paid for by a private foundation tied to the college, according to the audit released Wednesday.

Food was bought with public money.

A rule set by the Department of Labor and Industries requires employers to “prohibit alcohol and narcotics from your workplace, except in industries and businesses that produce, distribute, or sell alcohol and narcotic drugs.”

The college stated in its response that rule is “broad and unclear” – unclear because auditors consulted L&I about how to interpret it, and broad because it “encompasses a variety of circumstances that have little, if any, bearing on workplace safety.”

And one more thing: everybody else is doing it.

“The rule as written does not take into consideration context, or the fact that a variety of entities routinely hold events on college campuses throughout this state during which alcohol is legally served pursuant to college policies and Liquor Control Board permits,” the college wrote.

Despite its objections, the college said it would change its policies to comply.

The audit was prompted by a whistleblower’s complaint.

In a separate Wednesday audit, investigators faulted the president for failing to forward a July whistleblower complaint to Kelley’s office.