A plan to move county auditors from the finance department to under the control of the Board of Commissioners has been rejected by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
In a letter to commissioners at the end of the business day on March 9, Ellis vetoed the line item of the 2012 county budget that would have moved the auditors.
Ellis’ letter said proposed action by the county’s Board of Commissioners is in violation of the organizational act that delineates the balance of power for the county.
“The administration acknowledges and supports this authority of the Board of Commissioners to hire an internal auditor,” Ellis stated. “However, that authorization does not extend to the establishment of an auditing division, department or multiple auditors within the department of the Board of Commissioners [BOC].
“Furthermore, the authorization does not extend to the transferring of auditors from the finance department staff to the BOC,” Ellis said. “It should be noted that the position of internal auditor has been funded in past county budgets and remains so in the adopted budget, but the BOC has yet to fill the position.”
Ellis also stated that the CEO has the “exclusive power to supervise, direct and control the administration of the county government.”
With its proposed move, the Board of Commissioners “is exercising the power of the chief executive” in violation of the organizational act, he said.
Commissioner Lee May said the idea was to move three of the five auditors from the administration as part of the internal auditor’s staff.
“They will maintain the lion’s share of their responsibilities in auditing department by department,” May said. “That [group] would be the staff of the internal auditor to have oversight over and guide that entire program.
“It is essential that we bring on board an auditing function within the Board of Commissioners,” May said. “To allow the CEO to handle the day-to-day operations and …to audit himself, disclose those findings and fix those issues himself is problematic.”
In addition to the county’s $559 million budget, May said the county has an upcoming $1.3 billion water and sewer capital improvement project.
“We have to be very diligent about monitoring …each and every penny that is being spent,” May said.
Commissioner Kathie Gannon urged the board to fill the internal auditor position already in the commissioners’ budget.
“We have the money to do it,” Gannon said. “We have a position in our budget for an auditor. We have the power in … the organizational act.
“That position has been in the BOC budget for two years now and that position has not been filled,” Gannon said. “I would encourage my fellow commissioners to move forward in that regard so that we can dispense with the rhetoric and actually get some action done.
May said he “wholeheartedly” supports filling the internal auditor position.
“The problem is we are a billion-dollar enterprise and to have one person to do all the auditing functions is something that …cannot take place,” May said.
May said commissioners will continue to address the auditor issue over the next few weeks.