Yesterday McHenry County Blog revealed in an article by former County Board member Ersel Schuster the second step in the plot of Board Chairman Jack Franks to get rid of an independently elected County Auditor.
Step one was when Franks announced that he planned to nominate District 3 GOP County Board candidate Nancy Gonsiorek to replace Pam Palmer, who retired at the beginning of the year.
Franks announced to the Northwest Herald that he would ask the County Board to put a referendum on the ballot this fall to abolish the post of Auditor and replace it with an Inspector General..
The County Board, in a rare instance, revolted telling Franks they would not vote for his choice, but instead favored Palmer’s Chief Deputy Shannon Teresi, who was eminently qualified for the position.
But he convinced the Auditor to give up accounting duties, which were moved into County Administration, according to Teresi, “to provide additional independence to the internal audit function in the Auditor’s Office.”
Now Franks is seeking to finance a $98,211.15 Inspector General in next year’s budget, exactly what he originally planned with the exception of the abolition of the Auditor as an independently-elected official…at least for now.
Teresi has not taken kindly to this attempt to dillute her power as an independent watchdog.
She sent the following email to all twenty-three Republican County Board members, the one Democrat, plus Franks:
Subject: Inspector General Position Supplemental – Administration
Dear Chairman of Board, County Board Members and County Administrator,
During September 5th Internal Service committee’s review of Administration’s budget, the County Administrator [Peter Austin] passed out a draft job description of a new Inspector General position (to be published on McHenry County Blog tomorrow).
This position was not included in the budget packet in the meeting portal ahead of time or discussed with the Auditor’s Office in any specific terms prior to being presented.
It was communicated directly to the Auditor’s Office by the County Administrator that he is not advocating for this position, but following direction by an elected official.
This memo explains the Auditor’s Office’s concerns and recommendation on the position.
All County Board members, County Chairman and County Administrator were supplied this memo via email and hard copy (that will be delivered in County Board bins on morning of September 12th).
The Auditor’s Office recommendation is not to approve the creation of the Inspector General position as currently described in the supplemental request (see attached).
Auditor’s Office is more skilled and experienced in handling these duties.
Keeping them strictly with the Auditor’s Office would avoid duplication of costs and, more importantly, maintain independence over these duties to ensure quality and independent governance and oversight the full County Board expects.
As previously mentioned, this would be a waste of taxpayer money and in direct conflict with the County Board direction to further lower its budget.
Four main issues are identified below, which are duplication of duties, independence, limited experience, and authority and access.
I am open to discussing the Inspector General position.
The Auditor’s Office is always looking for ways we can best serve the needs of the citizens.
Duplication of Duties
The Auditor’s Office duties are granted by state statute similar to other elected offices.
Duties cannot be delegated or altered to another officer other than the County Auditor per state law.
To have similar duties performed by another office would be in violation with state statute and impede the Auditor’s Office’s ability to carry out its duties.
All of the proposed Inspector General duties would be in direct competition with most of the Auditor’s Office’s existing duties and affect our ability to properly complete and investigate audits.
An auditee department would not want to be under two different internal audit investigations and trying to implement opposing or similar audit recommendations.
For example, it would not be prudent to establish two offices performing County Clerk’s duties of managing elections and distributing birth certificates.
This is not the most efficient use of resources and would interfere in the County Clerk’s ability to carry out duties effectively.
This can also be said for the Auditor’s Office in the same respect.
The Auditor’s Office currently bases our annual audit plan on a risk assessment, which is derived from a dozen or more quantitative factors and analysis.
This is a process that is performed annually.
The proposed Inspector General position would be performing a redundant risk assessment process and not working in collaboration with the Auditor’s Office to perform audits and establishing the audit plan.
The Auditor’s Office just went live with a major Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline campaign called “Be a Hero.”
The campaign includes posters, payroll flyers, website banners and links to internal SharePoint site.
We are also working on developing a curriculum and training schedule, so we can perform comprehensive training over this very important topic for staff.
The Fraud, Waste and Abuse hotline has been historically maintained in the Auditor’s Office, and it is a recommended best practice for this duty to continue to exist within the County’s Auditor’s Office.
Additionally, 60% fraud, waste and abuse is found through tips and greatly enhances our internal audit function.
The Auditor’s Office independence over this process is a guarantee that issues reported through the Fraud, Waste and Abuse website will all be objectively reviewed, investigated and reported.
The proposed Inspector General position has no independence from most of the County departments, since it reports to the County Administrator.
Specifically, departments reporting to the County Administrator include:
- Division of Transportation
- Emergency Management Agency
- Facilities Managemen
- Geographic Information System
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Merit Commission
- Planning and Development
- Senior Services
- Valley Hi
- Workforce Network and
- Supervisor Assessments
The proposed position does not have the independence to provide an unbiased opinion on the vast majority of County departments.
The County Auditor’s Office reporting structure is to the taxpayers, which ensures their interests are always prioritized.
County Board approved moving accounting duties into County Administration to provide additional independence to the internal audit function in the Auditor’s Office.
The Inspector General position as proposed and the accounting and budgeting positions both report to the County Administrator, thus the Inspector General would never achieve an independent audit investigation of the accounting/budgeting function and the above mentioned departments under the County Administrator’s oversight and supervision.
Putting the Fraud, Waste and Abuse hotline in County Administration via the proposed position would cause inherent conflicts of interest and self-reporting to the Board, due to its control over a vast majority of the County’s budget and departments.
All successful audit and investigative functions require independence, which would not exist for this proposed Inspector General position within Administration.
The position would be attempting to perform complex County government audits with no experience on the organization.
The County Administrator is not well versed in auditing procedures to be technically supervising audit staff or establishing these new duties, especially while accounting duties are still being transitioned.
The certification requirements are extremely restrictive by requesting three certifications the applicant for the Inspector General position must possess: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Inspector General.
Many of my professional peers and I are unaware of an individual in the local area that possesses all three of these qualifications.
A job posting would potentially provide only a handful of candidates to interview at best.
The two certifications of CPA and CFE are held by my Chief Deputy Internal Auditor and myself, so this expertise is already being utilized at the County.
Inspector General certification is fairly uncommon.
It is only a week-long class and a single test compared to the CPA and CFE, which take many months (sometimes years) to complete the extensive study courses and four different tests.
Authority and Access to records
The Auditor’s Office has statutory authority to access all records at the County.
The Inspector General position will have no right to audit a department beyond a normal citizen’s right to FOIA.
Elected officials are under no authority to be subjected to possible investigations by this new position and would further interfere with the Auditor’s Office ability to perform its duties.
Shannon Teresi, MAS, CPA, CIA, CFE, CRMA
[Masters in Accounting Science, Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Risk Management Assurance]
McHenry County Auditor’s Office
2200 N. Seminary Avenue, Woodstock, IL 60098
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If you would like to contact County Board members, their email addresses appear below:
Charles Wheeler <CSWheeler@mchenrycountyil.gov