GUEST COMMENTARY: Accountability must apply to TQM funds, too

2013-04-03T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Accountability must apply to TQM funds, tooBy Karen Conover nwitimes.com
April 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Porter County Council did not shut down county Auditor Bob Wichlinski’s total quality management program as reported. A majority of councilmen are asking for accountability from the auditor for future expenditures. The minutes of the March 11 meeting reflect the same.

The County Council gave the financial departments an additional appropriation of nearly $500,000 in March 2011 as seed money requested by Wichlinski to assist departments with fixing property tax billing, its distribution, address the backlog of tax appeals and crack down on homestead violators. Simply stated, whatever was needed to get our county out of the Dark Ages.

Mission accomplished! Since the inception of TQM, the auditor’s nonreverting fund garnered more than $1.6 million from homestead violations, and the above-mentioned problems plaguing our county were addressed with a positive result. To date, there are existing circumstances which should be funded to their completion.

What is problematic are some expenditures from this fund which are unrealistic, unnecessary or excessive. The auditor presented spreadsheets to the council at its March 11 meeting showing revenue and expenses from the inception of TQM through Dec. 31. Payouts are listed by date, amount and payees which also include a brief description of service provided.

Some examples are as follows:

Two random months of payments to the homestead investigator: Oct. 1 through Nov. 2 (31 days), $18,500. Nov. 20 through Dec. 19 (30 days), $15,700.00. These are monthly ongoing costs at a pay rate of $100 per hour.

The auditor also pays for his own private attorney. The county has an attorney who is available to all departments, and this expense is a duplication of service.

Cellphones, iPads and broadband service are afforded to some employees in the auditor’s department when they already have landline phones, computers and internet available at their desks. A budget consultant is paid $150 per hour to assist the auditor’s financial staff, handle budget issues and state requirements. This information has been reported from the auditor’s spreadsheets and is a public document.

To date, expenses incurred for 2013 have not been given to the council by the auditor. The majority of your councilmen want to make future TQM requests explained and requested in a public meeting.

Accountability is something taxpayers demand from public officials, and the nonreverting fund will no longer be an exception.

Karen Conover represents District 3 on the Porter County Council. The opinions are the writer's.

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