I hope Sarah Palin makes a campaign appearance in Tiffin, Ohio. Perhaps she could inspire long-time Seneca County Treasurer Marguerite Bernard to raise the bar of government accountability a little higher.
Sarah Palin says she puts government on the side of the people. Really. Among the list of accomplishments that support her assertion is that the checkbook for the state of Alaska is posted on the internet for the people to see how the funds are spent. WOW! It was so easy to navigate to the checking account page from Alaska’s Home Page! Why isn’t the MSM talking about this? We all know how one of the pet issues of the media is the Freedom of Information Act. The state’s checkbook online? The media has to LOVE Sarah Palin for that. The MSM doesn’t even have to file any FOIA requests. Yet, . . . they don’t love Sarah Palin for that. It’s yet another demonstration of how “in-the-tank-for-Obama” the MSM really is. If the MSM is really fair and balanced, they would survey all 50 states in the USA and find out how many of them post their checkbooks online. I haven’t heard that figure reported yet.
And just how monumental an accomplishment is it that a state posts its checkbook on the internet?
Consider this: Seneca County, Ohio, which has about 60,000 residents, hasn’t even been able to balance its checkbooks more than a month after the office of Mary Taylor, Auditor for the State of Ohio, said that the bank statements and the checkbook figures don’t match each other. The Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune reported on August 6th that the discrepancy between the two was $813,456. That’s not pocket change.
Recently retired County Auditor Larry Beidelschies was the first to alert Seneca County, back in March of this year, that the checkbook was out of balance. Beidelschies was in the process of gathering records for Mary Taylor’s audit when he made the discovery.
The audit did not reveal any embezzlement or egregiously inappropriate expenditures. It’s just that when bank statements were issued, no one in Marguerite Bernard’s office compared the dollar amounts on the statements to the figures in the county checkbooks. Apparently, the bank made some errors and shorted Seneca County’s accounts.
Though much of the discrepancy was discovered right away to be an error on the part of National City Bank, there was still a reported $40,000 gap by August 7th (which turned out to be untrue, as we will find out later), which is still not pocket change. The Advertiser-Tribune editorialized that such performance is still sub-standard for a county treasurer who has been in office since the 1980’s. The A-T editorial went a step further by pointing out that Marguerite Bernard, the Democrat incumbent, faces a challenge from Republican Damon Alt, who voters might choose to replace Bernard this November.
By August 13, Marguerite Bernard assured the commissioners that the $40,000 variance had been corrected. County Commissioner Ben Nutter, though had met with both Bernard and National City Bank and reported that the checkbook was still not in balance as of August 19. In an A-T report of August 22, Bernard assured the County Commissioners that the checkbook could be reconciled by September 2nd, and that she was almost certain the books were balanced through June 2007. Auditor Beidelschies, noting that almost certain isn’t good enough, suggested that the books could still be out of balance dating back to 2006. Bernard asserted the June 2007 date, because she says that’s when the State of Ohio began to wire funds to the counties instead of issuing checks, and the new wire transfer method complicated things.
On August 24, the A-T reported a meeting between the County Commissioners and Bernard. Apparently the County Auditor’s office had offered, on several prior occasions, to help reconcile the checkbook, but Bernard had turned away those offers of assistance, so the Commissioners let it be known that they expected Bernard to let the Auditor assist. By August 26, Bernard had met with a representative of the Auditor’s office. As a side note, an interim replacement for Beidelschies was named, as his retirement date was set at August 31.
With the County Auditor finally on the case, by August 29, another discovery was made: A second checkbook was out of balance! All this time, Bernard had acted with resentment that others had been looking over her shoulder, and she’d kept insisting that her office could correct everything without assistance and without prodding, but the evidence of the Treasurer’s incompetence keeps growing! Would Alaska Governor Sarah Palin have had the same attitude as Marguerite Bernard? Quite the contrary. Bernard doesn’t want prying eyes looking at the county’s checkbooks, but Palin put’s Alaska’s checkbook online for all eyes to see! Beidelschies suggested that Seneca County get help from the State of Ohio to balance the checkbooks, which the A-T heartily agreed to in an editorial.
Treasurer Bernard missed her own September 2nd target date as the A-T reported on the 3rd that the checking accounts still weren’t reconciled. On September the 7th, the A-T reported that the County Prosecutor, Ken Egbert, Jr., was to also be part of meetings between Bernard, the Commissioners, and the Auditor’s office. In the A-T of September 9th, it’s reported that the meeting of the previous day got ugly. A seemingly indignant Bernard attempted to walk out of the meeting part way through the proceedings! She didn’t want to continue to answer questions! Bernard said she had the variance down to 28 cents, which finally is pocket change, but the representative from the Auditor’s office said that they had seen no verification of Bernard’s assertion. Bernard handed over a bank statement from July 2008 that had hand-written notes showing her attempt to reconcile the account, but the Auditor’s office said that they hadn’t seen the documents to back up the hand-written scrawls. and hadn’t even seen verification that a $99,000 discrepancy dating back to 2007 had ever been reconciled! The County Auditor’s office wanted to see ALL the documentation, and Bernard still wasn’t being accommodating. County Commissioner David Sauber said that he contacted State Auditor Mary Taylor’s office and State Treasurer Richard Cordray’s office asking them how Seneca County should proceed.
In an A-T report from September 11th, we learn that after the state audit was made public in early August, the remaining discrepancy out of the original $813,466 wasn’t just $40,000, as had previously been asserted. It was actually in the ballpark of $200,000, and the County Auditor still hadn’t verified that a portion of that, in the amount of $99,000, had been reconciled. The next day, the A-T reported that Bernard provided more documentation, but that the County Commissioners still believe that progress on the matter is too slow in coming, so they are considering hiring outside help to solve the matter. Julie Adkins, the incoming County Auditor who is replacing the retired Beidelschies, said that the Auditor’s office didn’t have the manpower to continue work on the checkbooks. Commissioner David Sauber hadn’t heard any reply from Richard Cordray’s office yet, but Mary Taylor’s office proposed that Seneca County could hire the Local Government Services Agency (LGSA), a state agency affiliated with Taylor’s office, to reconcile the checkbooks. The County Commissioners want to obtain an estimate of how much LGSA’s services would cost the county, plus hear from Cordray’s office, before deciding how to proceed.
It is now September 14th, and Seneca County’s checkbooks still aren’t in balance, and an experienced County Treasurer is miffed at all the hubbub over the entire affair. Contrast that with Sarah Palin and the transparency that she has committed the Alaskan government to, and you see that one is a public servant who doesn’t really like the public, and the other is a public servant who empowers her public.
There is yet more evidence of Sarah Palin’s attempts to reform government to put it on the side of the people, but I’m impressed by just the checkbook, alone.
I hope Palin comes to Tiffin soon and urges a vote for not only the McCain-Palin ticket, but a vote for Bernard’s election opponent, Damon Alt, as well.
Finally, I hope the MSM reports back about how many of the 50 states put their checkbooks online like Alaska does.