The legal battle between the Linn County Supervisors and the Linn County Auditor got underway in court this morning.
Auditor Joel Miller and the Board of Supervisors are .
The case has focused on two major points: Does the auditor have the authority to perform audits of county finance? And, does he or the supervisors have authority to hire and fire deputies in the auditor's office?
In his examination, Peter Riley, Miller's attorney, built a case accusing the supervisors of halting Miller in auditing county finance and wrongfully removing an official from Miller's office.
Miller Concerned About Internal Audits
Miller claimed he became increasingly concerned about performing internal audits of county finance, to discourage the 800 plus county employees from filing dishonest financial reports.
He claims he discovered the Linn County Sheriff "writing a check to himself," that Miller later found was towards a non-profit organization that the sheriff was a treasurer of. He also said "internal auditing" was responsible for finding a conservation department official who expensed a plane ticket for his wife.
Bob Hruska, assistant county attorney and lawyer for the supervisors, pointed out that Miller had filed an expense for a meal at a Mexican restaurant, which Miller said had been reimbursed.
Code Doesn't Expressly Give Auditing Authority
Hruska said the Iowa Code does not expressly give the auditor any authority to audit as it never actually mentions auditing.
He raised a comparison to a sheriff. Hruska said a sheriff has to have passed certification to become a sheriff, so why if the auditor's office was intended to perform internal audits, isn't the auditor required to be a certified public accountant? This is a designation Miller lacks.
Miller: "They Call it a County Auditor for Some Reason"
Miller agreed that the code does not explicitly mention auditing but added, "They call it a county auditor for some reason."
Miller also said auditors around the state perform these duties.
One of the key aspect of the case is the firing of a deputy official.
Miller fired one of the deputy officials in the auditor's office to make room for a deputy that could operate elections during election season, and also perform internal audits when there were no elections, he said.
However, the supervisors did not approve her salary and she was effectively removed from her position. They then reduced his number of deputy officers, despite his claimed need for more help for conducting elections.
Hruska said Miller believes he has much more power than he is allowed. Hruska said Miller believes he has authority to demand compliance from any Linn County office to audit finances.
Miller disagreed, saying, "I don't have the authority to compel anyone to do anything in another department."
The case is expected to last three days. Stay tuned for an update later today.