So, maybe you remember that long, costly, ugly court battle between Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and the Board of Supervisors over Miller’s contention that his office should be able to audit county transactions and purchases? It made all the papers.
Miller lost big in district court, and was pursuing an appeal. But he apparently fared much better in the Iowa Legislature, which ended the endless duties dispute by adding just 27 words to Iowa Code section 331.502, which lists the duties of county auditors:
NEW SUBSECTION .41A. Have the authority to audit,at the auditor’s discretion, the financial condition and transactions of all county funds and accounts for compliance with state and federal law.
The language was tacked on to a big omnibus budget bill, HF 603, and was signed by Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday.
Auditor Miller marked the occassion with a tweet
Effective 7/1/2013 -Iowa's county auditors have the authority & discretion to audit - see HF603, Division III, Section 58 - signed by Gov.— Linn County Auditor (@lcauditor) June 17, 2013
It looks like the auditing language was added in an amendment approved by the
Senate House Appropriations Committee. HF 603 eventually ended up in a House-Senate conference committee, which kept the language in tact. Both chambers approved the conference report during the final days of the 2013 session. I’d like to know more about the legislative origins of this provision.
The first I heard of it was Monday, when WMT’s Bob Bruce brought it up to Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson. Oleson was all like, meh, noting that the county does and will continue to do professional CPA audits:
“This is more like, did you buy 10 pens? Yeah, we bought 10 pens. Here’s the receipt, here’s where it came from,” Oleson said. ”If he wants to do that, he can knock himself out and do that. I’ve always supported that.
But I’m not going to support hiring somebody to do that for him. Certainly not going to support giving more money to him to be able to do that. In his pursuit to do this, he has really cost us a lot of time through lawsuits, through frivolous requests. It’s unfortunate. “
Oleson said he doesn’t think this will improve relations between the the auditor, board and other county officials. I’m not sure a United Nations peacekeeping force could improve relations at this point.
Setting aside all the local drama, this seems like a good change. County auditors sign off on all sorts of purchases, so it makes sense that they should have the authority to make sure those purchases are real.