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Ex-Washington Prison Superintendent Under Investigation for Misuse of Funds

by Dale Chappell

Douglas Cole, the former superintendent of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Thurston County, was quietly moved to another Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) position after a whistleblower exposed his alleged misuse of prison money.

An internal review found that about $145,000 of the prison’s purchases since July 2016 had been made without following the state’s guidelines for major expenditures. It was discovered that Cole would split up purchases to avoid having to get approval from the administration and to circumvent the bidding process.

The WDOC employee who outed Cole said she “became very concerned that what was being done was not right.” When she tried to get clarification on his purchases, she was reportedly intimidated by another prison employee.

Cole’s actions were “intended to hide/tuck money away to purchase goods without the proper approvals” and to purposefully avoid having to get administrative approval in order to bypass budget constraints, the internal review stated.

For example, a purchase of several furnaces for the prison was split into four billings; had they been billed together, approval from the WDOC’s central office would have been required. In another case, Cole bought $24,000 worth of mattresses, which exceeded his purchasing authority.

The internal review also found Cole had inflated the prison’s budget projections for expenditures. The inflated numbers in the budget were known as “sprinkles,” though WDOC spokesman Jeremy Barclay stated, “The term ‘sprinkles’ is not an official term sanctioned or used by the department.”

According to a May 6, 2018 news report, Cole remains under an ethics investigation but is not the subject of a criminal investigation. He now works as a performance adviser for the WDOC, earning $83,580 a year – slightly less than the $96,684 he earned as the superintendent at Cedar Creek. 

Sources:, Seattle Times

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