By Howard Packowitz
BLOOMINGTON – A controversy over accounting methods is giving McLean County government a “black eye”, according to Board Chairman John McIntyre.
In a presentation to an oversight committee, McIntyre said County Auditor Michelle Anderson is single-handedly damaging the county’s reputation. McIntyre claims Anderson is retaliating for a county board decision taking away her some of her duties about two years ago.
Anderson attended Wednesday evening’s finance committee meeting to answer questions about the budget for her office next year, but left before McIntyre addressed the committee.
McIntyre said Anderson remains defiant by refusing to return to prior bookkeeping methods. A backlog of invoices has led to late fees being assessed for not paying bills on time, according to county leaders.
McIntyre said the news media has wrongly described the situation as a personality dispute between Anderson and County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil.
“The facts show that our Treasurer and her department members were trying to do their job using the existing system, while another person, our auditor, was retaliating because of the county board removing the accounts payable procedure from that office approximately two years prior,” said McIntyre.
A day after Anderson answered committee members’ questions during a special meeting last month, McIntyre says the auditor delivered to the treasurer a box of 462 invoices totaling $1.3 million in unpaid bills.
“This was only one day after our auditor’s deceptive answer to (Finance Committee Chairman Jim) Soeldner’s question that she had only a couple of bills on her desk to be sent to the treasurer. Our confidence in the auditor has been permanently damaged by this,” McIntyre said.
“It is my responsibility as county board chairman to ensure that this type of immature behavior does not continue,” said McIntyre.
Committee members were disappointed Anderson wasn’t asked to stay so she could respond to McIntyre’s report.
“I’m disappointed if she wasn’t invited to this, and it wasn’t disclosed that there was a plan to make the statements that were made because they were clearly well prepared, and we knew that was happening,” said committee member Carlo Robustelli.
Soeldner took responsibility for not asking Anderson to stay for McIntyre’s report.
“I personally didn’t invite her. I guess that’s my bad. I should have said something when she got up to leave,” said Soeldner.
“I should have asked her to stay, and I didn’t,” Soeldner added.
County leaders believe Anderson has not committed any crimes.
McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp is preparing a legal opinion to determine whether the county board has a say on choosing bookkeeping systems.
Meantime, Anderson faces a Republican primary opponent next March who has the backing of local GOP leaders including Knapp, Sheriff Jon Sandage, County Clerk Kathy Michael, McIntyre, and Soeldner.
Trisha Malott, McLean County’s Behavioral Health Coordinating Council Supervisor, announced last week’s she’s running as a Republican for the auditor’s position. Anderson indicated she plans to run for re-election. Former Bloomington City Council member Rob Fazzini is the only announced Democrat in the auditor’s race.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org