Candidate forum: Champaign County auditor

Candidate forum: Champaign County auditor

CHAMPAIGN — The candidates for county auditor Thursday night presented wildly different opinions on the way the office has been run for the last four years.

Incumbent John Farney, a Republican from rural Urbana, said the auditor's office "has become, once again, an important part of county government rather than an afterthought. We've gone from dysfunctional to exceptional."

Farney succeeded Democrat Tony Fabri, who was accused of frequently missing work and wasting county resources.

But George Danos, a certified public accountant from Champaign who is challenging Farney in the Nov. 8 election, accused the incumbent of lax oversight in the handling of county-issued credit cards and of releasing a erroneous 2015 Popular Annual Financial Report, a short financial document posted online.

"The statement on its face violates the basic accounting equation," Danos said. "It's a glaring $12.4 million hole, but the auditor signed it. No real accountant would do so without first performing a review."

Farney said after the forum that he would review the report, but noted that it is not a legal document but a financial report "for the general public."

In his other charge, Danos said that Farney's office did not detect illegal purchases made by former Supervisor of Assessments Joe Meents last year.

"Supposedly this was caught in one billing cycle. But the charges kept ringing up from September 11th last year until January 12th of this year," he said. "This is a failure of both internal controls and transparency."

But Farney angrily refuted the charge, saying that "Mister Danos could not be more wrong."

He said that Meents "did not submit a bill to my office for payment between October of 2015 and February of 2016. He subverted the process. The process on credit cards is that we review every single purchase and we require a receipt for every single purchase. The supervisor of assessments tried to pull one over on us and he failed."

Meents resigned from the county position shortly after the illegal purchases were uncovered.

The auditor candidate forum ran barely 25 minutes long because audience members submitted only five questions to the moderator.

The forum, held at the Champaign City Council chambers, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the Champaign County NAACP and The News-Gazette.

A second set of forums will be held next Wednesday night, also at the city building, featuring legislative, county board and county coroner candidates.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):Election 2016