Davis County commissioners say charges leveled against the commission by Auditor Ruth Kennington are politically motivated.
Kennington has issued a statement charging that the move of LaMar Holt, her chief deputy, to the county's Administrative Services Department was intended to give the commissioners control of auditing functions and to conceal waste in government spending. She said her oversight of county finances is being affected by the move.But commissioners responded unanimously that Kennington's remarks were politically motivated and timed to coincide with the weekend's county Republican Party Convention, where Commission Chairman Harold J. Tippetts was seeking renomination and where Commissioner Glen E. Saunders was seeking nomination for the remaining two years of the county clerk's term. Saunders originally filed for re-election to the commission but switched races when Michael Allphin resigned from the clerk's post.
That move generated controversy with tax protest groups and Davis Democrats who claimed it was timed to affect candidate filings.
In Saturday's county GOP convention, Tippetts, with just 54 percent of the vote, was forced into a primary runoff with former Sheriff William "Dub" Lawrence. Saunders received only 54 percent of the vote and will face a runoff with Margaret Isom.
Kennington, who like the three commissioners is a Republican, said moving Holt will affect her office's ability to conduct audits and other financial monitoring tasks.
Saunders said there is no truth to the claim because Kennington has failed to perform her duties adequately since assuming the post in January 1987.
"We've (the commissioners) not had a good relationship with her since she came on board," Saunders said. "We told her when she took office that our first priority was to strengthen our internal auditing controls."
Saunders said that in the 17 months Kennington has been on the job, she has failed to implement a satisfactory system. "Last year we increased her budget in the middle of the year so that she could bring on an internal auditor to do some of this work. In the seven months he has been on the job we have received only one partially completed audit."
Holt said he sees the move as having little impact on county operations, including the auditor. He said he is still performing all of the functions he held under Kennington and that little has changed. He said the move has both pluses and minuses, but is not affecting general county functions.
Saunders denied claims by Kennington that a new department was formed to facilitate the move. Saunders said Holt was moved to an existing department where some restructuring of positions was done to make the move most beneficial.
"We are frustrated at not being able to use her staff to define, develop and implement policies and procedures," Saunders said. "We are all part of the same team and we should be able to use the resources of each department."
That hasn't been the case, Saunders said. Instead of concentrating on making her department work well, Kennington has tried to interfere with the administration of other departments, he said. He said this has affected the auditor's department, and plans to implement a computerized finance accounting system have not been fully realized as a result.
"In her heart I think she has honest intentions, but she is simply not doing her job," Saunders said. "It seems she wants to tell others how to run their offices while neglecting her own."
Kennington's statement was critical of the commissioners for not taking steps to save tax money by abolishing the clerk's post. She said Holt's move does nothing to save money since the position was simply moved to another department. She said the action has the effect of "tying my hands and attempting to stifle my audit reports."
While critical of spending waste, Kennington's statement emphasized that current abuses are the result of long-time problems and are not the fault of people now in office. She said that if those in office fail to respond then they are assuming responsibility.
Saunders said the move essentially completes a process of putting all purchasing-related responsibilities under one department head, a goal the county has had for some time. He said Kennington's reaction is not warranted and that she still has the support necessary to perform her functions if she will take the initiative.