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Johnson County supervisors plan to address Slockett overspending issue Thursday

BY NATHANIEL OTJEN | OCTOBER 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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Following unapproved expenditures totaling more than $58,000 by Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett, one county supervisor believes implementing a previously proposed policy would prevent similar situations from occurring.

Slockett recently spent $62,580 buying 70 laptops, 70 printers, and 70 identification scanners. The Board of Supervisors only approved the purchase of five new computers, Supervisor Janelle Rettig said.

More equipment arrived on Oct. 19 and has yet to be unpacked and sorted through, Rettig said. The supervisors plan to confront Slockett about the purchase during their next meeting, on Thursday.

Slockett’s actions stirred discussion of a new policy to ensure such purchases don’t happen in the future. At their meeting last week, when the purchase was discovered, Rettig voiced her concerns about the lack of clear control.

“We don’t have control measures to stop elected officials and department heads from violating the budget,” Rettig said during the Oct. 18 meeting. “Until we get some control measures in place, I don’t think we should be paying any more bills. Obviously, people can spend money how they want, not how it was budgeted.”

Rettig said even with checks and balances in place, a system might not prevent such actions from occurring.

“I don’t know if you can ever have a foolproof system,” she said.

Rettig said Slockett clearly crossed a line by going around the supervisors to purchase these pieces of equipment.

“I think there are a lot of lessons here — it shouldn’t have happened because people are trustworthy,” she said. “There’s just a line you don’t cross.”

Supervisor Chairman Rod Sullivan agreed with Rettig.

“The purchase was pushed through by going around the typical process,” he said.

However, Slockett stood behind his purchases, saying the voting equipment was purchased because it was necessary and that county supervisors have failed to provide the required services for Johnson County voters.

“I will never go-along-and-get-along with the vote-suppressing efforts of the virtually unopposed chair of the Board of Supervisors,” Slockett wrote in an email. “[Sullivan] and his cronies, the unopposed Democratic local and state officials elected in Johnson County, display callous disregard for the established tradition of Johnson County as the best place to vote in the United States. It never occurred to me to follow their lead to intentionally fail to provide the necessary services to meet the need of Johnson County voters to exercise their right to vote. They clearly take the voters of Johnson County for granted, but I will not.”

In response to Slockett’s claims, Sullivan said the county has acted properly to provide the appropriate resources for Johnson County voters.

“It’s absurd,” Sullivan said. “I am convinced that we have done a good job with voting in this county and will continue to do that, and I think his comment is absolutely absurd.”

Slockett was defeated in the June primary election by Travis Weipert — a Tiffin city councilor.

Weipert is running uncontested for the auditor position. Slockett has been the Johnson County auditor since 1977, and Weipert will likely replace him in January 2012.

Officials have been working on a proposal to add checks and balances to the budget system for almost two years, Rettig said.

She said a proposal has been on County Attorney Janet Lyness’ desk since early in the year to create a contract and purchasing lease agreement. This would constrict who can sign leases and purchases over a certain amount. The proposal would also alert the claims department if an official tries to push purchases past the supervisors.

Lyness declined to comment about Slockett’s spending.

Rettig said Johnson County needs an accounting department as well. Creating such a department wouldn’t require hiring any new employees, she said, only rearranging current staff.

However, she said that even with these guards in place, it might not work to stop elected officials from sliding issues past the supervisors.

“It may not have stopped this,” she said. “You have to have honest people serving in these positions.”


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