• 64°

Montgomery meets with elected officials

State Auditor Betty Montgomery visited Lawrence County Thursday as the 80th stop on her tour of all 88 Ohio counties.

Montgomery, the 30th state auditor, is the chief accounting officer for the state of Ohio. Her office is responsible for auditing all public offices in the state including cities, villages, schools, counties, townships and all of the departments, agencies and commissions ran by the state government.

Sworn in for a four-year term in January, Montgomery has a political background as a criminal prosecutor, state senator, and Ohio's first female Attorney General.

Meeting in Judge Richard Walton's chambers, she talked with about 25 people including County Auditor Ray Dutey, several township trustees, clerks and other elected officials, to introduce herself and answer any questions.

Montgomery said the best way to gauge the office's progress is to talk with the constituents.

"I am trying to get into the counties and see how we are doing," she said in a year where the budget is clearly the biggest issue. "The cost of audits is very expensive. With 25 percent of my budget cut, we are trying to figure out how to lessen the blow to the locals."

The auditor of state oversees approximately 5,000 annual audits conducted by 700 auditors, who examine the financial records of local political subdivisions within Ohio's counties to ensure that locally collected revenues are spent appropriately.

Montgomery said she always enjoys visiting Lawrence County and Southern Ohio.

"It is nice to get back to the grassroots where the real work of governing happens every day," she said.

During her travels across the state, Montgomery said she has been encouraged and impressed by the fact that most counties have been able to adjust and accomplish positive things despite the stressed economy.

Hopefully, this is a sign of many more good things to come, she said.

Finally, she said she has been reassured that the government is honest. Her office has conducted more than 400 seminars about the value of an open government.

"An open government is an honest government," she said.

Dutey said it is encouraging to know someone so accessible is working in Columbus.

"She said she will come back anytime," Dutey said. "One thing I keep hearing is that someone has not forgotten Southeast Ohio. She has welcomed us to call if we have any problems whatsoever."

Also, State Rep. Tom Niehaus (R-88th) talked with those in attendance about his bid to replace Sen. Doug White in the 14th District of the State Senate, which includes the western part of Lawrence County.

Niehaus will run in the March 2004 Republican primary.