Legislature Auditing Bid ‘Mistake’: Vow to Fix Process
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO January 22 Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson on Thursday took the blame for a resolution which passed over the recommended independent county auditor in favor of the current one.
Back in December, legislators in Executive Committee unanimously voted to retain the current auditor of P.K.F. O’Connor Davies to audit the county’s books for 2012 and optionally through 2015.
According to the resolution, County Treasurer Ira Cohen, County Clerk Dan Briggs and Budget Commissioner Josh Potosek had recommended O’Connor Davies.
But that was not true, as the trio had actually recommended the hiring of a firm called Toski and Co. basically because its bid was $81,000 less than O’Connor Davies, said Cohen and Briggs.
Upon discovering this, legislators tabled the resolution before it could be officially passed at the full December 20 meeting.
Questions abounded thereafter, with legislators arguing over the restricted flow of information amongst them and whether or not this could have been an intentional error.
On Thursday, Samuelson characterized it as an accident.
“I screwed the process up,” he admitted during the Government Services Committee meeting.
He explained that Democratic legislators had met in caucus (closed-door sessions where many county issues are decided in advance), where they didn’t realize that the aforementioned trio had even met, let alone recommended an auditor.
As the Democratic majority appeared satisfied with O’Connor Davies’ past performance, the firm was again selected.
The resolution’s language inaccurately stating this was the three-man committee’s recommendation was recycled from years past, said Samuelson, and neither he nor anyone else checked it before it got to the floor.
“It was an inappropriate way to do it, but it was for all the right reasons,” Samuelson explained. “It was my fault.… There was nothing malicious.”
A new resolution has since been drafted naming Toski and Co. and will likely come up for vote this month.
But concerns remain, especially about the lack of accurate information on an important decision.
“You have to start questioning the whole process,” noted Legislator Cora Edwards.
“How can we make sure that the process can be trusted to bring correct information before us?” asked Legislator Cindy Gieger.
Treasurer Cohen shared that concern.
“Our intention was to meet with you, but this was put on the agenda without our knowledge,” he explained. “... How that happened, I don’t know.”
Several speakers said there was no issue with O’Connor Davies, which has since revised its bid but still is higher than Toski and Co. (Since this is not a formal bid process but simply a request for proposals, bids are not sealed and can be changed.)
“Hopefully this firm will give us the same good service the current firm does,” Cohen stated.
Gieger called for the process to become more open, with no gaps in information.
“I’m not willing to sit here any longer and vote on contracts… without more information,” she affirmed.
Edwards reiterated her longtime push for exact dollar amounts on contract resolutions one of several changes that appear to be in the works.
“An error did occur,” said Legislator Kitty Vetter, “and we’re working to fix that error in the future.”
After the meeting, Cohen explained that Potosek had prepared an accurate resolution for legislators but ended up getting sick, staying out of work for several days.
“Then this showed up unannounced at a committee meeting five days later,” he recalled. “… It made it seem like somebody was doing something improper.”
“I’m willing to take Scott at his word and move forward in the best interests of the county,” Cohen stated. “But let me just say, I still have some unanswered questions.”