Tiregate rolls through budget session | RecordCourier.com

Tiregate rolls through budget session

After being castigated over the county's failure to spot more than $1 million in tire thefts, commissioners spent six hours on Monday asking county personnel for more detail during tentative budget hearings.

One of grand jurors recommendations was the implementation of an asset manager.

"Would this asset manager request take care of the issue the grand jury identified in inventory control?" Commission Chairman Steve Thaler asked. "Probably not because we're talking about two different things."

County Manager Larry Werner said the program rejected last year by commissioners would deal with more than just tires and inventory.

The Public Works department is proposing hiring a warehouse maintenance technician who would be responsible for controlling inventory.

Commissioner Larry Walsh recommended finding an outside firm to do inventory control, while Thaler said he thought the position should be countywide.

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Grand jurors made two-dozen recommendations to the county to prevent further instances like the Tiregate thefts.

Motor Pool manager Chris Oakden is believed to have misdirected more than $1 million just in tires over a decade. That doesn't include other items, such as filters, that may never be accounted for.

Genoa resident Jim Hartman said he was disappointed that grand jurors didn't do more in identifying who was accountable for the thefts.

"The bottom line here is you and your predecessors failed the taxpayers of Douglas County," he said. "You failed the honest employees of this county. You approved budgets each year that had dramatic increases to do with tires, had augmentations, no internal controls, no internal audit put on notice in 2012, that function never conducted any audits over the years."

North Valley resident Lynn Muzzy said that despite warnings, commissioners hired a chief financial officer.

"The voters should treat this as a poor performance indicator when they go to the polls this June," he said.

Commissioner Barry Penzel said the real issue is that many specific items, like tires, are lumped into services and supplies, which makes it difficult for commissioners to do their job of oversight.

"It always comes down to supplies and services," he said. "It would behoove us to separate supplies and services."

He recommended departments break down their services and supplies into their fundamental parts.

"It seems to me after all of the beatings we've taken over tires, that we wouldn't have to make a special requests," Penzel said. "I don't mind taking a beating, even given the fact we're totally underpaid to take all the beatings."

Some progress has been made in implementing the Douglas County grand jury's two-dozen recommendations coming out of the Tiregate investigation.

On Tuesday, County Manager Larry Werner said officials were instructed not to discuss Tiregate while the criminal investigation is under way.

"The timelines are what they are because of the confidentiality of the investigations we started in March," County Manager Larry Werner said. "We were under orders from both the criminal and civil divisions that we could not talk about it while the investigations were ongoing. In fact, they are still ongoing. Under the criminal investigation you cannot talk about it."

In February, county commissioners approved creating an internal audit committee and hiring a third party to operate an offsite hotline for whistleblowers.

Both measures directly address concerns about a county employees' effort to report the theft of tires from the motor pool.

At least one employee was reprimanded for trying to blow the whistle, according to the grand jury report.

Additional training for county employees has also been implemented.

The county is working on its $157.9 million tentative budget, which is due at the state on May 21. The final hearing is May 1.

One of the first questions commissioners had out of the gate was about the $12.9 million decease in the beginning fund balance.

"As we begin the 2018-19, we take our fund balance at that time, and that becomes the beginning fund balance," Budget Manager Julie Andress said. "There were still six months of year remaining. It gets adjusted."

Much of the county's budget consists of funds that have dedicated funds.

Monday was the first of four days of tentative budget meetings, which continue on April 2 and 3.

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