Commission waiting on DeWine opinion

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How much authority does the county auditor have as a member of the budget commission?

That is the crux of a series of questions county prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson has sent to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday following a dispute last week on whether auditor Jason Stephens can solely determine the anticipated revenue of the county.

Before the county commission can decide how to spend revenue, there has to be a certification on how much money is expected to come in during the year.

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“I am writing this letter to request your opinion on issues that have recently arisen with the Lawrence County Budget Commission,” Anderson’s letter states. “We ask that you please address the following issues:

“Does the auditor, treasurer and county prosecutor have equal vote in decisions made by the budget commission? Specifically can any member of the commission make a motion and call for a vote on said motion?

“Is it the responsibility of the budget commission or county auditor to issue the certification as to the estimated resources of the subdivision (county) that are available for appropriation in the fiscal year?”

During a recent budget commission meeting Stephens refused to bring before that body a request to add $500,000 to the 2015 certification of revenue, even though the other two members were in favor of it. At that point Anderson made a motion that was seconded by county treasurer Stephen Burcham, the third member of the commission. That motion passed. Stephens did not participate in the vote.

Anderson also questioned Stephens’ refusal to change the certification to include the half-million dollars.

“Has the county auditor violated Ohio law if he/she refuses to submit an amended official certificate of estimated resources to the county commissioners after a two-to-one vote of the budget commission to increase the certificate of estimated resources,” the letter asks.

At a budget commission meeting last week all three members agreed to seek DeWine’s opinion on the dispute.

“I don’t have a problem with you doing that,” Stephens said at the time. “I would rather everyone understand this is not acrimonious. I think it would be helpful. I want to be on solid legal ground.”

Anderson does not have a specific timeframe for receiving DeWine’s opinion.