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State auditor promises no more hassles for Sunnyside's Promise

It took a trip to Olympia, but Sunnyside's Promise and Sunnyside city officials received assurances from State Auditor Brian Sonntag that all is well.

For the past two years state auditored have raised concerns about the city's participation in Sunnyside's Promise because it has a clergy member on its board.

The relationship is one of coordinating services and outreach for youth, not of support to any church or faith-based organization, noted Ed Radder, Sunnyside Police Chief and Sunnyside's Promise Board Chairman. "We don't meet in churches or support them," he continued, "They actually deliver services for youth as part of Sunnyside's Promise."

The national America's Promise organization encourages collaborating with faith-based organizations. Radder added that America's Promise even provides a thick manual to guide municipalities in maintaining separation between church and state.

Rather than debate with area state auditor office representatives about Sunnyside's Promise, the city decided to go straight to the source.

"We feel like we never heard what their concerns were," Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell said of the auditor's office. "We felt like we needed to meet with them and find out what the issues were."

That, in turn, led to last week's meeting with Sonntag in Olympia.

"The law clearly allows us to have this relationship (with Sunnyside's Promise) and for Sunnyside's Promise to do what it's doing," said Stockwell. "Hopefully it (the outcome of the meeting) will make the program stronger."

Radder said the meeting with Sonntag went "better than we could have imagined." He continued, "We met with the State Auditor at 10:45 a.m. and by 11:30 a.m. we were looking for a place to have lunch."

Sonntag found the city to be in compliance, Radder said, and assured Sunnyside he would deal directly with those from his office who attempted to raise issues with the city.

A positive outcome from the meeting is good news for both Sunnyside and Sunnyside's Promise, noted Stockwell.

"It's all about making sure youth have good counseling for day-to-day decisions," he said. "Sunnyside's Promise puts them in touch with some good examples in the community, people who care about what young people are doing and want to help them resolve their problems."

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