McLean County could be seeking an independent auditor's advice on a change to the county's bookkeeping practices that several county officials said they didn't approve or even know about.
Finance committee member Chuck Erickson, R-Bloomington, said during a committee meeting last week the county first needs to find out if the County Board has legal authority to tell the Republican County Auditor Michelle Anderson how to do her job.
“I don’t think I really have any large objection to a certified public accountant, but I’m not sure we can enact what they say if it’s really the county auditor that gets to make the decision anyway,” Erickson said.
County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil said in a memo to State’s Attorney Don Knapp and County Administrator Camille Rodriguez a sudden change in how the auditor tracks revenues and expenses has slowed the county paying its bills.
Rodriguez told the committee Anderson never consulted the County Board before “switching the organization away from traditional practice.”
The county has also asked the state's attorney to look into what oversight powers the County Board has.
McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Woods told finance committee members state statutes offer conflicting rules about the county’s jurisdiction.
“They seem to give powers to both the county board and the auditor,” Woods replied, adding that a decreasing number of elected auditors in the state has likely limited legal precedent on the matter.
Carlo Robustelli, D-Bloomington, serves on the county finance committee. He expressed frustration over the timing of this dispute as the county reviews its proposed budget ahead of a scheduled vote next month.
“We have got to get a sense for what our options are all the way around, including the most extreme, taking authority away from one of (the county’s officeholders) because it’s disrupting county business,” Robustelli said. “It’s completely insane that during the budget we are dealing with this.”
Finance committee member Josh Barnett, R-Bloomington, said Anderson hasn’t responded to the panel’s request for a “deeper and higher level” explanation for the change.
“I’m concerned about what’s going to happen between now and November and how many more emails we are going to receive in the middle of the night from the county auditor instead of taking what I would consider a more professional stance and working collaboratively with the administrator and with the county treasurer who have made themselves available to try to solve this issue that’s before us,” Barnett said.
Anderson did not attend the meeting. Finance Committee Chairman Jim Soeldner said Anderson was out of town to undergo a medical procedure.
The County Board's Executive Committee will take up the matter during its monthly meeting on Tuesday. It could decide to seek an independent expert to provide recommendations on how the county books its revenues and expenses, but the county hasn’t identified whom that would be.
The county's finance committee also brought Anderson's office under close scrutiny last year when it approved a $25,000 pay cut for the auditor after the county moved three of the four jobs in that office to the county treasurer. The County Board, however, rejected that move and instead called for a broader review of all elected officials salaries.
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