Elected county auditors are accountable to the taxpayers. Here’s how they’ve stopped wasteful spending.
Holding businesses accountable
In 2001, a City granted “Company A” a property tax abatement in exchange for investing $7 million and creating 40 jobs. In 2004, the Company sought future incentives to build a facility in the City. Based on the prospect of future growth, a tax incentive review council recommended continuing the abatement. Just two weeks later, “Company A” announced plans to relocate, costing the City jobs, payroll and investment. Outraged, the County Auditor called an emergency meeting to cancel the exemptions and recover lost property taxes.
Ending wasteful spending
One County Auditor refused to allow taxpayers to cover these costs, submitted by county agencies:
• Travel reimbursement for 7 days for a 4-day conference
• Travel expenses for an employee while on vacation
• Meals included in a conference fee, including bottles of wine and meal for a spouse
• 28 14-inch pizzas and pop for 24 meeting attendees
• Valet parking fees when self-parking was free
• Wine-tasting event attended by an employee
• Rental car expenses when training was held at the employee’s hotel
• Reimbursement for beer and body wash
• Lodging and meals two days before and after an out-of-state conference
Filing suit on taxpayers’ behalf
A County Auditor became alarmed by financial hemorrhaging in the county mental health system. An audit revealed that a local agency under contract to provide all the services was $365,000 in debt. Taking matters into his own hands, the County Auditor teamed up with the County Prosecutor to file a lawsuit to stop paying the agency’s bills. They argued that the contract was illegal since the agency was insolvent and using public money to pay off debt. As a result, the director of the mental health system resigned and the agency’s contract was terminated.
Acting as the taxpayers’ watchdog, a County Auditor found a number of irregularities: an overcharge to the county on debt by a bond counsel for $300,000, and employees tapping public funds to pay for private pizza parties. Most spectacularly, the County Auditor caught an employee embezzling $10,000 from the dog tag system. The employee was handed over for prosecution, tried and sent to prison.