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County government throws $22,000 down the drain

By Scott Tibbs, May 28, 2013

On May 17, the County Commissioners approved a request by the Monroe County Council to pay a former county employee $22 per hour for 1000 hours of work as a contract employee working on the county budget.

It could have been worse, and the attention paid to it by members of the public has probably been a factor in mitigating the damage. The council originally wanted a full-time staff position. The salary for that would certainly be significantly more than $22,000 a year and would also bring in costs such as unemployment insurance, retirement benefits and health insurance. None of that is the case here, and that is a good thing.

But this is still an unnecessary, wasteful expense and I am very disappointed in the two Republicans on the council for voting for it. I realize they cannot stop it but they need to vote like Republicans rather than go along with this wasteful spending. If they do not oppose things like this, what is the point of electing Republicans at all? (In fairness, the two of them are generally solid votes for fiscal sanity. Both of them completely dropped the ball here, though.)

The underlying problem is that the county council (with a 5-2 Democratic majority) clearly does not have confidence in the Democratic Auditor to fill the need they have for budget analysis, despite the fact that this is a basic responsibility of the Auditor's Office. Under the previous two Democratic Auditors, this was certainly justified. But this position was being debated when the newly-elected Auditor had been in office for less than two months. I have been very critical of Steve Saulter (and I stand by that criticism) but let's allow him a chance to fix the problems in his office before we wastefully throw money at the problem.

It has been said that the Auditor is underpaid relative to similar positions (such as Bloomington's city controller) and that reduces the number of qualified candidates willing to run for the position, especially given the charged partisan nature of elections and the personal attacks on candidates. But this position should not be elected at all. No reputable private business hires a CFO based on the results of a partisan election. They hire the best person for the job after a thorough vetting process. The structure of county government is stuck in the 19th Century and badly needs reform.