How would you ascertain the current state of Humboldt County's fiscal controls and what are your plans to enhance them? (200 words)
I would start by doing an internal control evaluation. I would involve Auditor-Controller staff and other department staff where appropriate in the evaluation. The purpose would be to review existing fiscal controls to determine effectiveness, compliance, potential for fraud, waste and abuse. It is much better to prevent fraud and mistakes before they happen than to find them after the fact. I would also review the financial system to make sure that budgetary controls are in place to ensure legal compliance with the adopted budget.
If the audit has identified any fiscal management weaknesses, I would work with the established audit committee to develop a corrective action plan to resolve the findings. I would then work with county departments to implement the plan.
The best ways to enhance fiscal controls are through training, strict review and approval processes and segregation of duties. I plan to develop strong internal controls and standard operating procedures that utilize these practices. Additionally, correcting missing or untimely posting of accounting transactions and reconciliations is just as important as making sure there is adequate documentation to support financial transactions. I will reconcile cash in the county general ledger daily to on-line bank cash balances.
What barriers do you see to the Auditor-Controller's Office's ability to simultaneously practice vigilant oversight of public finds while also making sure the proverbial trains rain on time? How do you plan to address them? (200 words)
I see the primary barriers to practicing vigilant oversight while still producing timely reporting as being staffing, training, communication and use of technology. The county needs to have financial management and internal control systems that protect public funds and produce both timely and accurate information (one without the other is useless).
The Auditor-Controller's Office, like many other departments in the county, has had challenges recruiting new employees and retaining existing staff. If elected, I will actively work to recruit additional staff and retain existing staff. I would pursue getting interns from Cal Poly Humboldt. I would develop a plan to provide employee training where needed and provide leadership to ensure every employee can develop to their fullest potential. I would also meet with department heads and partner agencies to discuss ways to better provide services and improve communication.
I think there are opportunities to better utilize technology to reduce duplicate accounting systems and automate financial reporting. I would also like to implement online access to financial reports for county employees, other agencies and the public. This could free staff up to work on other tasks.
Public perception of the current auditor-controller's office often seems split between two camps: those who see it as facing widespread obstruction while attempting to practice strict oversight after years of a rubber-stamp mentality and fiscal mismanagement; and those who view the office as incompetent, unable to communicate clearly with other departments and often missing the forest for the trees, leading to missed deadlines and delayed disbursements. If elected, what are your plans for bridging this divide and building public trust in both the office and county government as a whole? (200 words)
My goal would be to both provide required oversight and meet mandated deadlines. Departments need to understand what is expected and why it is important that they comply. County financial accounting needs to be accurate and timely.
As Auditor-Controller, my intent is to make sure strong systems and internal controls are in place to ensure that financial mismanagement does not happen. The goal is to stop it, not catch it. I will communicate clearly and frequently with county departments to ensure compliance.
I will promote trust in our local government through transparency and fiscal accountability. I will make sure that audits and financial reports are completed on time and available to the public.
I plan to implement four core principles as follows: 1) Strong internal control systems, 2) Reconciled and accurate reporting data, 3) Timely full disclosure of the financial condition of the county and 4) Organizational responsibility —departments need to manage revenues and expenditures in accordance with the adopted budget.
Now, a brief questionnaire to help voters get to know you a bit better:
City of residence? Bayside
Where did you grow up? San Fernando Valley and Ventura County
How long have you lived in Humboldt County? 41 years
Can you please provide a brief education history? I have a BA in Mathematics and an MBA with a focus on accounting, both from Humboldt State University
Can you please provide a brief work history? I worked for the county of Humboldt for 30 years, starting in the Auditor-Controller's Office for 10 years, then Public Works for 10 years, then back to the Auditor-Controller as deputy for two years, and then the County Administrative Office. I have worked for the last three years as finance director for the city of Rio Dell.
What is your current occupation? Finance Director
What do you consider the three most important endorsements you have received to date in your campaign?
The endorsements from the two county unions HDSO and AFSME Local 1964 meant a lot to me. I appreciate every endorsement I have gotten, but when my husband said he understood why I was running and endorsed my effort, that was very important to me.
Now, a few questions to give voters a taste of your personality:
What is your favorite movie? Star Wars
What is your favorite book? Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
What magazine do you read most regularly? Western City Magazine
If your campaign had a theme song, what would it be?
"Debit Credit Theory" by Colin Dodds
Who is your favorite fictional accountant/auditor/controller?
Ben Wyatt in Parks & Recreation
Who is your favorite real-life accountant/auditor/controller?
Neil F. Prince who was the Auditor-Controller when I started with the County. I consider him to be the person responsible for where I am today. He once told me the difference between being a bookkeeper and an accountant is knowing when to stop looking for pennies.
Dogs or cats? Both, I have two dogs and a cat.
What is your favorite hobby? Gardening
What would your superpower be and how would you use it?
Ability to turn chaos into order; wait and see how I use it.
If you could sum up your candidacy in a single haiku, what would it be?
Cheryl Dillingham for Auditor-Controller on time no drama