McLean County's two leading fiscal officers remain locked in a dispute over the county's accounting practices.
Treasurer Rebecca McNeil has accused Auditor Michelle Anderson of changing how the county books revenues and expenses.
Anderson said the office has been using a modified accrual system since long before she took office. She accuses McNeil of lying to the County Board about it.
“The (County) administrator (Camille Rodriguez) has believed the lies and presented false information to the (County) Board, all without asking me about the alleged changes or responding to any one of my emails on the topic,” Anderson said in a statement to the media.
Rodriguez previously shared a memo she sent to McNeil with the County Board’s Finance Committee last week, saying she was aware the auditor is “in the process of switching the organization away from our traditional practice without consulting the board.”
Anderson said she has always used the accrual system, which recognizes expenses when they are billed, rather than when they are paid. Anderson said McNeil's office seems to “not understand basic accounting methods.”
The County Board Executive Committee last week asked State’s Attorney Don Knapp to look into whether the county has the legal authority to tell the auditor which accounting style to use. Anderson said that’s not necessary.
“All I’m asking is that (McNeil) go back and do things the way they were done for 30 or 40 years,” Anderson said. “I don’t know that I consider that a switch. I would actually argue that she is the one that made the switch back in 2018.”
That's when the county moved bill paying from the auditor to the treasurer's office, leaving the auditor’s office with two employees.
Anderson said the recent slowing of county bills getting out, something McNeil noted, may have been tied to her staffer taking vacation for several days.
“Even one person gone in an office of two, it kind of slows down things getting done,” Anderson said. “We are already doing the work five people used to do.”
The County Board will decide next week whether to hire an independent auditor to resolve the dispute. Anderson is urging County Board members to vote against it.
“Hiring an outside CPA is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” she declared. “This is something I think if administration, the board were willing to sit down and have a quick conversation with me this could all be cleared up in about 15 minutes.”
Anderson also disputes claims that she's not been available to meet with county administration or County Board members. She said she has reached out to administration and members of the County Board’s Executive Committee but received no response.
“(County Administrator Camille) Rodriguez has no desire to meet with me on this, so it’s very disappointing she and the board claim they want to discuss this with me but they refuse to meet with me,” Anderson said.
She said she has talked with McNeil about the matter but no resolution was reached.
McNeil responded by saying she is “deeply troubled” by the allegations.
“The county does not generally record standard invoices on accrual throughout (the) year,” McNeil said in an email. “This is very similar to many other counties and municipalities in the state.”
McNeil said she started questioning changes she noticed in September invoices the auditor was recommending for payment.
“We did not agree with the practice of suddenly backdating the (general ledger) dates to April, May, June, etc,” she added. “For thousands of invoices, our date of entry is generally the (gl) data, with the exception of year and special items.”
McNeil said she told the finance committee on Sept. 17 she would cooperate with the change if that’s what the panel desired, “but discussion needed to occur.”
County Board Chairman John McIntyre told WGLT Tuesday that Anderson should have notified the county about any accounting changes.
"My suggestion was if the auditor had a change that she thought was good as fas as the accrual method, then all she really needed to do was come to the Finance Committee and justify her change and we where we are," McIntyre said.
He added the county simply needs to have the matter resolved without slowing the county paying its bills.
"I don't see any reason to disrupt our services or slow down what we are trying to do to provide services in the county," he said.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.