Some have been touting how wonderful Blount County government is because of receiving three “clean” audits in row. That does sound good but as was recently pointed out here, audits don’t reflect assets well managed or monies well spent.
After discussion with a Polk County Commissioner, who shared with me that the state Comptroller’s Office has been using the same auditors for several years in Polk County, I reviewed Blount County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) and found that the same thing has occurred with Blount County’s audits.
Utilizing the same auditors for more than a decade is unacceptable. Familiarity between auditors and those being audited is not in the best interest of the taxpayers. Relationships can develop and those being audited learn what specific auditors are looking for and possibly more importantly what the auditors aren’t looking for.
To address that matter, I (Tona Monroe) have filed a resolution requesting new auditors for Blount County’s fiscal year 2018 audit. Audit reports for Blount County are available on the Comptroller’s website here.
A review of the audit reports from 2004 through 2017 shows that one auditor has participated in all 14 years of audits, another 13 out of 14 and another 9 out of 14 years. The situation in Polk County is similar to Blount County. 2 of the auditors have participated in all of the audits for the past 13 years.
Furthermore, the state legislature passed a law making the job performance evaluations of Comptroller’s Office employees confidential. The job performances of those tasked with looking out the taxpayers are secret. You aren’t allowed to know the quality of work they are doing. This open records exemption needs to be repealed.
Another problem that needs to be addressed is allowing Comptroller’s Office auditors to become local finance directors. Former Blount County Finance Director Dave Bennett worked for the Comptroller’s Office before working for the county. The same thing happened in Hamblen County with Joey Barnard. It’s not in the best interest of the taxpaying citizens to allow someone to be in charge of keeping your local government’s books when they could be friends with the state’s auditors, because they’ve worked with them in past. The positions of county finance directors and state auditors should not be a revolving door.
These issues involving auditors, finance directors are the Comptroller’s Office are ripe for reform to protect the people of Tennessee. Instead the Tennessee General Assembly went the other way by adding more secrecy when it sealed the performance evaluations from public view. One of Blount County’s state lawmakers, Representative Bob Ramsey, was the House sponsor of the legislation. Senator Ken Yager was the Senate sponsor. These two are waterboys for the Comptroller’s Office. It looks like we the people need to reform our state legislature by sending better lawmakers to Nashville.