State auditor owes taxpayers prompt answers

Published 12:16 am Sunday, October 26, 2008

Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel “Watchmen” — set to be a blockbuster motion picture next year —posed the question, “Who watches the Watchmen?”

Now may be time for someone to ask that question about the Ohio State Auditor’s office. Let’s audit the auditor.

After recent years of opting not to make enough substantial changes on their own, the Lawrence County Commission asked the state of Ohio to conduct a performance audit last year.

Email newsletter signup

The county commission has faced flat or dwindling revenue for several years but has been unable to do much to offset skyrocketing increases in areas that include the cost of housing jail inmates, health insurance and worker’s compensation.

So the commission mandated some budgetary cuts by the office holders — some of whom complied and some of whom did not — and asked the state to be the proverbial bad guy.

But now it seems that maybe someone in Columbus doesn’t want the voters to see the results of this audit until after the election.

In early September, a state auditor’s spokesman said that the office officials were in the last stages of completing the review of county government practices, expenditures and resources. It was then expected that the state’s findings would be presented privately to the Lawrence County Commission, which would have two weeks to respond. Then, the audit was to be made public and be available on the auditor’s office Web site.

Well, it has been weeks since the commissioners were given this draft. It has likely been weeks since the two-week window passed.

Yet, still nothing is available to Joe Taxpayer or John Q Public.

Is there some grand conspiracy at work? Probably not, but it sure seems that the state isn’t in any great hurry to provide the voters with information that could be vital to their decision in the voting booth Nov. 4.

The state must act now, while there is still time.

The information in this audit could be vital to voters since several of the officeholders including two county commissioners are seeking re-election.

It is important that voters get the chance to fully analyze this performance review before being asked to put some of these same people back into office.

That would be like asking a job applicant to fill out an application and then hiring them before even taking a look at the resume.

Even if this report is made public in time, does this mean voters should use this information solely to make their decision on county leaders? Of course not.

Citizens should analyze all the information in each race including track records, personal history, qualifications and more. But this audit could be another piece of the political puzzle.

If the Ohio auditor is watching out for the taxpayers, like the office claims, then it should put the information out there for all to see.