Vote 'yes' to appoint treasurer and auditor

info@islandpacket.comNovember 3, 2012 

Accountability, effectiveness and efficiency would all be better served by changing Beaufort County's form of government.

These goals are hampered by the current system of electing the county's treasurer and auditor, especially with the minimal requirements of being 18 or 21, a registered voter and a resident of the county.

We ask voters to support a change to a council-manager form of government that would allow County Council to make these appointed positions.

Treasurer and auditor are administrative jobs whose work product is not enhanced by their election. Our council-administrator form of government is ours by default, not by design. We have it because it was the closest to the form of government in place when the Home Rule Act went into effect in 1976.

It was not put in place because it provided checks and balances. State law, in fact, allows four types of government, including the council-manager form of government.

We need an integrated approach to handling our increasingly sophisticated finances that involve hundreds of millions of dollars and affect every level of government in the county.

Instead, we have a disjointed system that allows finger-pointing rather than accountability when something goes wrong.

We have seen over the years what happens when we don't have direct accountability: Tax sale problems, reassessment snafus, and tax collection and disbursement disputes that are needlessly difficult to resolve. The county administrator can't direct or discipline these officeholders. County Council controls their budgets, but little else. Voters can't recall them under state law. Short of criminal charges being filed, there's not much we can do to remove bad performers from the job.

Yes, we have a new treasurer, whose work to date has been good. But had the embezzlement and shoddy mismanagement of the former treasurer come to light in 2007, shortly after she was elected to another four-year term, rather than in 2010 when she was up for re-election, we would have had to put up with that shoddy work for another 3-1/2 years before we could have tried to replace her.

That's not accountability. That's asking for trouble.

Voters don't determine who runs for office. They might vet the people who sign up, but when those people are few and far between, as has been the case with the auditor and treasurer, what real choice are we exercising? And with the minimal qualifications now in place, even a plethora of candidates won't ensure we elect someone who can effectively handle the job.

A change in state law could change job requirements, but an election still wouldn't cast as wide a net for applicants as a national search.

The applicant pool for these jobs would be wider and deeper if elections were out of the picture. The current officeholders can apply for the jobs when the new system begins in 2015, after their current terms end.

We have little to lose and much to gain in changing how the auditor and treasurer are selected. Please vote "yes."

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