In My opinion
By Caroline Porter
Special Audits Reveal Administrative Failings
Let me make my record clear. I am one citizen and county board member who has no doubt that States Attorney John Pepmeyer was set up for a fall in March of 2007, with false accusations of sexual harassment and simultaneous abandonment of most of his staff. Taking into account the people involved, the personnel issue being covered up by the former sheriff and former stateÕs attorney, the way the sexual harassment charge was told to the Peoria Journal Star before properly reported, made it look staged – as it was.
But I voted against the special audits of the SheriffÕs department and StateÕs Attorney office requested by Mr.Pepmeyer. First, this board and our county treasurer just canÕt get it through their heads that the countywide elected officials are responsible directly to the people, not the county board. State statute says clearly that the board works with the various offices at budget time, is responsible for these offices staying within their total budgets and reviews all their bills, but does not have internal control of the finances or operation of the office. In fact, county boards are explicitly warned against punishing or intimidating county officials via the budget.
As it turns out, the audits were more than twice as expensive as expected and took a year. IÕm all for finding a new accounting firm. The special audits didnÕt find any signs of criminal wrong doing, just really lousy bookkeeping. Let their results be a warning to other elected countywide officers – donÕt get sloppy with the books. Under the current sheriff, that department has already made many of the changes suggested in the report. Most of the problems in both offices came from the former elected sheriff and stateÕs attorney having little or no administrative experience and hiring help from the ranks of political party supporters.
The board has discussed having an audit of one elected officialÕs office each year, along with the usual county government audit. I question our authority to do that. I do suggest, however, that each elected county official pay to have his or her department audited at least every four years so the public can have confidence their tax money is being well spent.
I started writing this column in spring of 1999 and my columns have become less and less frequent. This will be my last. Again, many thanks to Norm Winick for giving me the opportunity to write ÒIn My OpinionÓ these nine years.
Caroline Porter is a freelance writer from Galesburg who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check the Zephyr website for other columns.