I'm not scared to admit when I am wrong. I'm almost sure that it has happened before.
Let's just say no one from the Hallmark Corporation has called requesting to use the contents of Friday's column for a new greeting card.
While many things I said were tough, I think almost all of it was fair. From the state's self-imposed revenue crisis to the governor's political wrangling of situations at the capital to include firing the head of the Department of Health and bringing in a partisan pal instead of asking for a forensic audit of the agency have created or exacerbated every issue under the dome.
The legislators could have called in accounting help as well. They haven't. Oh, they talk about it during debate when they say the state has plenty of money but no one has ever made the request to get a performance audit done.
But one place, I have to admit that I was at least unfair if not incorrect was in calling for Gary Jones to leave the governor's race because of the horrible job his office has done in relation to the Health Department situation that began in turmoil, resulted in a $30 million bailout from the legislature, only to find out in the middle of May that none of the 200 layoffs were necessary and not one cent of the emergency $30 million has been touched.
Call me crazy, but I thought Jones should have picked up on that issue in 8 years in office. I have known Jones since he was a passionate guy from my brother's church in Cache who just knew Jeff McMahon was up to something. Everyone kind of thought Jones was crazy at the time, but a few years later, the former state auditor and his wife both began prison sentences and soon after jones was elected State Auditor and Inspector.
If, like me, you think a person with the title auditor and inspector should have been able to catch a multi-million dollar problem, I will go through the conversation Mr. Jones and I shared Friday.
Jones said he has audited the Department of Health twice a year since coming into office. His defense to the simple question, "How did you not know or say anything?" is that all they get at routine audits is the official account. Since the department was self-restricting funds (creating a slush fund) and going through CEOs frequently not many people really knew why that huge balance was there - they just knew they couldn't use it.
Without being requested, Jones and his staff - whose own budget has been cut from $5 million to $3 million in two terms in office - can't do performance audits.
Once they were invited to complete that work, they did and their work was what the Grand Jury report was actually based upon.
I pointed out to Jones that I wish as an auditor that at some point in seven years he would have told someone what was going on at the agency. It would have been really helpful to know that they were fiscally fine when the legislature was taking $30 million from somewhere it could have been used and putting it into an account where it wouldn't be touched.
But Jones isn't the department head and until his staff was invited to do the performance audit, they didn't know much about how the balance got there, only that it balanced for the sake of accounting.
As auditor and inspector, Jones should have been able to do a performance audit and he should have been able to sort this issue out before 200 good people lost their jobs and $30 million was misappropriated.
But he couldn't. He doesn't have the authority without the legislature or the governor. Instead of strengthening his office and asking for more help, lawmakers created a politically positioned commission to handle audits. Let's just say that duplicating efforts and keeping the real watchdog on a leash hasn't worked out very well for the state.
I was right that the State Auditor and Inspector should have been able to find these problems before now. I was just wrong that it was somehow Jones' fault that he didn't. Until the legislature stops using performance audits as a debate tactic and starts using them as a real governing tool, all the state auditor will be able to do is balance the state's checkbook.
The office could be a tool for the legislature, they simply don't use it.
That isn't Jones' fault. I shouldn't have said it was.
The next State Auditor and Inspector should be used to help better understand state finances and make better decisions - especially when a department sounds a siren and claims they have an emergency. Too little, too late is a bad way to govern.