Auditor-Supervisor Trial Continues: Supervisor Explains Why She's Suing the County Auditor

Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston sat on the witness stand today and explained why she and her fellow supervisors are suing Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller he didn't know why the Linn County Board of Supervisors wouldn't let him appoint a person in his department to audit county finances.

To him, the idea of giving someone the power to check potential financial fraud would save the county money and carry favor with residents currently frustrated with government.

However, when Supervisor Linda Langston was put on the witness stand today in the court battle between the Board of Supervisors and the auditor, she said she didn't think someone with that job description should answer to the auditor.

The trial between the and continued in the afternoon. The trial is expected to last three days.

"I told (Miller) that, while I was not inherently opposed to the proposition of an internal auditor, I had a couple of problems," she said.

For one, she said the auditor's office is so large the person appointed to do the auditing would not have enough incentive to thoroughly audit it. Specifically, the large facilities department is under the auditor's office umbrella, she said.

And, she said several certified public accountants and experts told her that such an auditor would ideally report to county executives or boards of supervisors.

Miller has said that he believes that whistle-blower protection laws are sufficient enough to protect against any conflict of interest.

Miller said he feels that auditing is an implied duty of his position.

"They call it a county auditor for some reason," he said in the morning session of the trial.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the trial as it continues this week.

Let us know who you agree with or, if neither, what you think about the lawsuit.

Steve Sprague May 30, 2012 at 05:17 PM
When a major reponsibility is not designated to a specific person then no one can be held accountable. State audits are generally superficial. I admire the auditor for jumping into the gap. I've rarely seen an elected board that wanted to police its people or processes. If the method of hiring is the issue then that processs should be spelled out in written policy. How about we put aside the" I'm in charge" egos here and do some real audits. It's the citizen's money, we should expect and require Accountability. Steve Sprague - Marion, IA
Steve Sprague May 30, 2012 at 05:21 PM
PS - Whose paying for all of this?? : ) Steve
Scott Raynor (Editor) May 30, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I see your point about the auditing, and I think in general it is a good thing. But what do you think about the idea that an auditor may not be impartial and independent if he or she is appointed by an elected official?
Steve Sprague May 30, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Regarding your comment, Scott: I beleive the Supervisors are responsible for County Programs and Funding. Results of performance audits should be reported to them in open session for the Supervisors to act or not to act upon. Such a process provides great opportunity to correct mis-understandings, highlight inappropriate spending or activity and provide the supervisors the opportunity to keep their processes on track. The voters can then decide in they deem the supervisors actions upon the audits as appropriate. What's most important is to establish accountability through a defined, balanced process. As to whom an internal auditor should report to that's a good question. Since both the Auditor and the Supervisors are politically elected, I can see pro & cons on each side. Ideally, a place I visit in my mind while knowing it does not really exist; an internal auditor would operate independant of any specific authority so that impartiality can be asurred. All county staff would be required to cooperate by policy. Reports and recommendations for actions would be made publicly to the Supervisors after each audit. The Supervisors would then decide what to do. Today its too easy to sweep things under the rug rather deal with them. Accountability is nothing to fear if you are doing your job. Sunshine helps the govermental ecosystem perform better. Steve
Scott Raynor (Editor) May 30, 2012 at 09:13 PM
You raise a good point. Ideally, an objective auditor would be completely independent. But like you said, that perfect, objective position does not exist. If that's not the case, then hopefully some sort of compromise can be reached.


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