Those who had hoped to bring immediate change to the Beaufort County Treasurer's Office with a vote for Doug Henderson probably are disappointed that it will be July 1 before he takes charge.
Under state law, the switch from one treasurer to the next doesn't take place until the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.
But eight months is too long to wait for substantive change in that office. Treasurer Joy Logan should work with Henderson, who defeated her by a nearly 2-1 margin, to get better systems in place. Systemic change is sorely needed in that office.
Three audits since 2005 have found consistent problems with late deposits, delays in posting to the county ledger and lack of documentation and verification.
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A forensic audit completed earlier this year -- the result of money missing from the office -- found no independent review of cashiers' work in collecting and recording payments to redeem property sold in the annual tax sale; records for the annual sale kept in notebooks and maintained by hand; and an average six-day lag between the time property is redeemed and the money is deposited in the bank. A rubber stamp of Logan's signature was kept in a back office where many employees had access to it.
We simply can't have business as usual for the next eight months.
Henderson is ready to start the transition to a new treasurer, and he recognizes that Logan, who has been in office nearly 20 years, will play a key part in that.
"We're hoping that Ms. Logan is willing to invite us into the office and help us through this transition period," Henderson said. "I'm sure she has some insights as to how things work and where the problems might be. ... That could be very helpful to me."
County Councilman Paul Sommerville says the council will lean on Logan to ensure procedures and controls continue to improve even though the council doesn't have direct authority over the office.
"The issues are on the table; the solutions are forthcoming and will be implemented long before July 1," Sommerville said.
County Council should do what it can to make sure that happens.
For her part, Logan says she plans to begin electronically logging transactions in the county's general ledger, a process done by hand now. The forensic audit points to that manual process as a possible contributing factor to the money missing from the 2009 tax sale.
That is long overdue, but we suppose it's better late than never.
The transition from Logan to Henderson is a short-term issue. The long-term question is whether the treasurer should become a hired position, rather than an elective office. That goes for the county auditor's job, too.
Whether the treasurer and auditor are elected or appointed depends on the type of county government you have.
State law allows four types of county government, and each has slightly different rules. Under our type of government, council-administrator, the treasurer and auditor are elected. If we had the council-manager form of government, County Council could choose whether it wanted to appoint people to those jobs or hold an election.
We have the council-administrator form of government because the legislature determined it was the closest to the form of government in place when the Home Rule Act when into effect in 1976.
A change in county government would require County Council to pass an ordinance and hold a referendum.
Beaufort County voters should have the opportunity to learn more about this option and weigh in on it.
That's true no matter who is treasurer or auditor.