By a vote of 4-1, the Linn County Supervisors stopped Auditor Joel Miller from appointing a deputy to internally audit county spending.
Miller had said he wanted someone to monitor invoices that pass through the auditor’s office, to make sure nobody is stealing from the county. He appointed Karen Heiderscheit to the deputy position a week ago, but supervisors refused to sign her payroll authorization.
On Monday, the supervisors reduced the number of deputies — political appointees — Miller is allowed in his department, effectively denying him the ability to assign one to internal auditing.
Supervisors Linda Langston and Ben Rogers said they objected to Miller’s plan because an internal auditor should report to the Board of Supervisors, not to the Auditor.
Rogers said internal auditing of claims shouldn’t be done in the same department that processes the claims, as a matter of principle.
“In the private sector, it’s similar. The internal auditor wouldn’t report to the accounting department, it would report to the board of directors,” Rogers said. “None of us think that an internal auditor is a bad idea.”
Langston said for a political appointee to audit the county and report to Miller would represent a “conflict of interest.”
Miller challenged Rogers and Langston, saying about 70 percent of employees in the county report to the Board of Supervisors while only five percent report to him. An internal auditor reporting to the supervisors would be more prone to conflicts than one reporting to the auditor, he said.
“It would be the equivalent of the fox guarding the henhouse,” Miller said.
Supervisor Brent Oleson was the lone dissenter in the vote to rebuff Miller’s proposal, hinting that he saw the spat as a political power play.
“I’ve got my own internal Republican stuff,” Oleson said. “I’m not going to wade into internal Democrat stuff.”
Regardless of the supervisors’ vote, Miller plans to assign Heiderscheit to internal auditing as part of her regular job duties.