Elimination of elected Nevada treasurer, controller debated | RecordCourier.com

Elimination of elected Nevada treasurer, controller debated

by Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, testified Tuesday eliminating the elected treasurer and controller would make government more efficient and improve the operation of those functions.

But Treasurer Dan Schwartz and Controller Ron Knecht said doing so would compromise the safeguards that protect the state from fraud or error and deprive voters of the right to select those officers.

Anderson said the jobs should be professional, not political and that's the purpose of Assembly Joint Resolution 6.

"We should not be having politicians making financial decisions for the state," he said.

He said in the modern world, there are checks and balances and internal controls that prevent violations like the case in 1927 when Nevada's treasurer and controller got together to steal budget money from the state.

"This perceived separation is just not necessary," Anderson said. "It's time for Nevada to keep pushing into the future by ensuring we have the most qualified financial managers and divorcing these offices form politics. Take financial management out of the hands of politicians and put it in the hands of qualified financial managers."

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Neither Knecht nor Schwartz technically has a stake in this fight since both will be termed out by the time the proposed constitutional amendment could be put on the ballot for voters to decide.

To amend the state constitution, AJR6 would have to pass the legislature twice then be approved by the voters. That would take five years.

Anderson said that's key to his proposal — that Nevada voters would make the final decision whether they want to make those jobs professional appointees instead of elected officials.

He said details of how moving those functions under the governor's office would be left to lawmakers to decide after the vote and shouldn't be enshrined in the constitution.

Knecht and assistant controller Geoffrey Lawrence said segregation of duties is a fundamental accounting control principal and removing that could result in negative citations by auditors and potentially degradation of Nevada's credit rating.

Lawrence said having both functions under the same managers "creates a fraud risk that is generally looked on unfavorably when done intentionally."

Both Knecht and Schwartz said there's value in the independence of a treasurer or controller who doesn't report to the governor but to the people of Nevada.

"All these various functions could be handled by some one in the governor's office but what is difficult to maintain is the checks and balances our system provides," Schwartz said. "My responsibility is not to the governor as it would be if you put this under the governor's aegis."

The Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee took no action on AJR6.