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4/15/2005
Auditor should be more independent

Brandywine Community News, April 15, 2005
To the Editor:

I am disheartened that County Council fired Mr. Hicks, the county auditor,
because he uncovered irregularities. The auditor position should be independent, not subordinate to council. The auditorís job is to assure that nothing illegal or questionable is happening. Why would you fire someone who dies his job diligently? It makes council look like it has something to hide.

Mr. Clark wants to rush a measure through council urging the Delaware General Assembly to revise the auditorís duties in a way that dilutes the effectiveness
of that position and enmeshes the auditor in a line of bureaucratic tangles.
It would require the auditor to get approval from the Audit Committee or
County Council prior to risk assessments or special audits, making recommendations or adding staff. Councilman Robert Weiner noted that the auditor would be precluded from speaking to the Justice Department. Another councilmen asked for more time to review the measure, a reasonable request for such a serious matter.

Mr. Clark said he wanted his resolution arriving at the legislature before the legislature acts on its own. Not coincidentally, Rep. Lavelle recently introduced a bill strengthening the auditorís independence, making it harder to fire the auditor, providing a separate auditor budget and empowering him/her to hire staff. Lavelleís bill would remove the auditor from serving at the councilís pleasure and establish that the Audit Committee would consult with rather than oversee the auditor.

County Executive Coons supports strengthening the auditorís position and allowing audits to be initiated without council permission. Plaudits to him and Mr. Lavelle. Mr. Clark, and like-minded council members, do you recall the former county executive having free rein over county funds with disastrous results? Why balk at a county auditor uncovering irregularities and illegalities? The Enron scandal showed that auditors need to be independent of the entities they audit.

Thank you, Councilman Weiner and Councilman Cartier for asking questions
and asking for time to review the proposal. Hopefully, the rest of the council will begin to act in the public interest. It seems that their recent actions, including secret meetings, are moves toward empire-building instead.

Judy Magee
Tavistock

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Judy Magee

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