Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fee offices, drug court on agenda

Today (or tomorrow – depending on whether this gets posted Sunday night) the county commission presumably will decide whether to take oversight of the fee office budgets.

Or not.

Word going around is the board will table it for a month before then approving it.

Anyhoo, I’m out of town, but figured I’d post a few words.

I talked to one of the fee officers, Clerk and Master of Chancery and Probate Court Howard Hogan, on Saturday.

He had a few interesting things to say in our brief conversation. And he’ll elaborate more during the commission meeting. He’ll also bring 12 years of monthly budgets and reports, showing all the money his office has taken in and paid out to that meeting.

Two big boxes, he said.

“I’ve always reported everything that I’ve done,” he said. “Someone in those 12 years must have looked at them. Yet, at no time has someone ever questions a nickel.”

He said the reports go to the county’s internal auditor, the mayor and the county commission.


There’s a touch of irony in that. The commission and mayor want more control, yet he’s never been questioned about it.


He added: “Every check that’s written to my office is written by the finance department and signed by the mayor. I do not sign any checks for my salary or the salaries I’m paying my deputy clerks. Each check is signed by the mayor. That’s transparency. If they’re writing the checks, they know where the money is going. They don’t need anything more for transparency.”

Don’t forget, all this mess is either about transparency, accountability, or money. Or whatever.)

Additionally, Hogan said that as part of the county’s judicial branch it should be separated from the legislative and executive side of affairs.

That is typically how things work, I suppose.

And speaking of the judicial branch.

The Drug Court Board of Directors met last Wednesday and – at county Law Director Joe Jarret’s suggestion – agreed that it was in the county’s best interest to consent to a fiscal audit of the drug court’s affairs and a clinical audit of the program.

No one believes they’ll find anything wrong. But they just want to make sure.

(Remember, Richard Baumgartner, the former criminal court judge who resigned and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct, oversaw the drug court.)

The commission is expected to approve the request during its meeting.

The county’s internal auditor will then review the program from a fiscal accountability perspective. And Jarret said he’s contacted a member of the University of Tennessee, Social Work Program to assist him in conducting a clinical audit of the program.

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