Supes Approve Investigation of Auditor-Controller Allegations

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Karen Paz Dominguez. - SUBMITTED
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The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, with Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone dissenting, to hire an independent, third-party to investigate allegations of workplace misconduct and delayed payments by the Auditor-Controller's Office.

The closed session vote this afternoon came as the board met to conference with legal counsel regarding anticipated litigation or significant exposure to litigation related to five cases of  “allegations of workplace misconduct and delayed payments by the auditor-controller.”

The closed session discussion was the sole item on the meeting's agenda.

Auditor-controller K aren Paz-Dominguez has been a polarizing figure in county government since her election in 2018, which came on the heels of her raising questions about the office’s operations and whether it was providing sufficient oversight on the spending of taxpayer monies. But her office has been plagued recently by complaints that it has been slow to close the county’s books for fiscal year 2019-2020, bringing cascading financial and planning impacts, and that it has been slow to pay county vendors. Paz-Dominguez has maintained that her office is understaffed and other county departments’ accounting and documentation processes have often made it impossible to reconcile the county’s books in a timely manner. Many of the frustrations, she has maintained, stem from her reforming the Auditor-Controller's Office from one that simply "rubber stamps" fiscal documents from other departments to one that truly protects the public interest.

Last month, the board of supervisors approved spending $500,000, on top of $250,000 already allocated, for financial advisory services from a Sacramento-based accounting company, to help reconcile the county’s books and close the 2019-2020 fiscal year. At the meeting, a string of county department heads urged the appropriation, saying additional help was needed to solve the problem and move the county forward.

Late last year, the county's ad-hoc budget committee warned that "operational gaps" into the Auditor-Controller's Office could result in the county losing more than $14 million in state and federal reimbursements if looming deadlines were not met.

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