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 describe the current state of Humboldt County's fiscal controls as "evolving" and "strengthening" because I have implemented internal controls that were not in practice previous to my tenure and because the Board of Supervisors has become more active in setting policy designed to protect public funds. The speed with which controls are evolving is slower than one might like but it is worth noting that slow progress is still progress.
I make my assessment of the county's fiscal controls using the COSO Framework of internal controls. Given the board's adoption of a cash handling policy and its formation of an Audit Committee, I believe the tone at the top of the organization is shifting toward one of promoting strong internal controls. Given the numerous trainings my office and I have hosted and the dozens of instructional and reference materials we have provided all county departments, I believe that the county will have a better chance of maintaining its internal controls because it will have increased its organizational competence over financial reporting.
There are still several areas where internal controls need to be developed/implemented and it is my mission to focus on those areas in my next term.
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)
The main barrier that exists that present a challenge to the A-C Office's ability to simultaneously provide oversight of public funds while also producing results timely has been the lack of adequate staffing. There are over a hundred fiscal staff across the departments and only a handful of accountants in the A-C Office to oversee their work, which results in the accountants taking on workloads that require frequent overtime or the de-prioritizing of tasks that some may deem to be important.
Historically, the Board of Supervisors and CAO have been made aware of the staffing challenge in the A-C Office and have ignored the problem. During my first term, however, due to increased pressure to provide additional staffing, the board has allocated additional positions to the A-C Office. Now, we face the challenge of recruiting skilled accountants at the low-paying wages offered to accountants by the county.
My plans to address this challenge involve: 1) increased automation wherever possible to relieve staff to focus on more complex tasks, and 2) increased training video recordings to minimize the direct training needs of departments, and 3) increased cross-training within the A-C department so that tasks are completed despite a staff member's absence.
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 plans for bridging this divide and building public trust in both the A-C Office and county government include implementing increased transparency of financial operations by making them directly accessible to the public in real time. By delegating power back to the public, all county departments will be incentivized to perform their duties in a timely and professional manner. By giving the public the ability to oversee its government's operations without relying on information from third-hand sources or biased media, we will avoid and eliminate the hearsay arguments that cloud the reality of government workings. If elected, I will also be updating and publishing the county's financial workflows so that there is a shared understanding of the timeline and steps for processing invoices, deposits and payroll. Understanding where transactions are in the workflow process will provide the public the peace of mind it deserves and departments will also be discouraged from assuming the worst possible intent of its colleagues in the A-C Office. By shining a light on the county's financial operations, we will inspire trust in government.
Now, a brief questionnaire to help voters get to know you a bit better:
City of residence? Eureka
Where did you grow up? El Salvador, Los Angeles and Humboldt County
How long have you lived in Humboldt County? 17 years
Can you please provide a brief education history? My formal education includes earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting from now Cal Poly Humboldt. I consider myself to be a lifelong learner and have completed at least a dozen Continuing Professional Education hours every year for the past decade. My formal education included financial accounting, managerial accounting, advanced financial accounting, cost accounting, taxation and auditing.
Can you please provide a brief work history? My work history includes 10 years of direct accounting, taxation, and auditing experience at two local CPA firms as well as at the county of Humboldt. I also successfully earned an Enrolled Agent license in 2016 upon the successful completion of four taxation exams hosted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). I have performed a variety of accounting work, including general ledger accounting, nonprofit and governmental accounting, filing tax returns for different entities, and performing audits of non-profits and government agencies.
What is your current occupation? Auditor-Controller
What do you consider the three most important endorsements you have received to date in your campaign?
The Auditor-Controllers from different counties across the State of California (San Mateo, Los Angeles, Placer, Contra Costa, Ventura)
The Honorable Malia Cohen, Chair of the State Board of Equalization, California's elected tax commission
The Humboldt County Central Democratic Committee
Now, a few questions to give voters a taste of your personality:
What is your favorite movie? The Accountant
What is your favorite book? Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
What magazine do you read most regularly? N/A
If your campaign had a theme song, what would it be? "Get On Your Feet" by Gloria Estefan
Who is your favorite fictional accountant/auditor/controller? Allen Gamble played by Will Ferrell in The Other Guys
Who is your favorite real-life accountant/auditor/controller?
Richard Hutchison, CPA of Hutchison, Hohman, & Co., for his incomparable service/work ethic and dedication to excellency in the field of accounting.
Dogs or cats? Dogs
What is your favorite hobby? Organizing like Marie Kondo
What would your superpower be and how would you use it?
If I had a superpower, I would want it to be what I would call a "super translator." With this power, I would be able to understand all spoken and unspoken languages and be able to bring people together in communication despite not speaking the same language. This power would help me ease conflicts and build bridges of opportunity.
If you could sum up your candidacy in a single haiku, what would it be?
The truth is easy When challenged, be like water And wash off mistrust