CHAMPAIGN — Although the Democratic candidate for county auditor said he has the academic credentials and professional background to hold the office, the Republican contender, citing a recent financial scandal involving the city treasurer in Dixon, said that being a watchdog is just as important.
"There's been a lot of talk about education, and no, I don't have a lot of letters after my name," Republican candidate John Farney said Wednesday. "But we've all heard of Dixon, Illinois, and a lot of people with a lot of degrees signed off on everything that happened in Dixon. But the person who blew the whistle was the person who was actually at work, going through the mail, a hands-on person that discovered that $53 million had been stolen from a community when all sorts of people had signed off on public audits over and over."
George Danos, the Democratic candidate, said he also would be a watchdog.
"You all remember the contentious election we had last year over whether the auditor should be elected or not," Danos said. "There was concern then that you couldn't get somebody both qualified professionally and vouchsafed with the needed independence an auditor can only get by being directly elected. There is a way to square that circle and the press called for it: Either the parties actively recruit specifically from the world of finance or someone who has the requisite education and work experience steps forward. I heard the call and I am that someone."
Both candidates said they favor keeping the auditor's position an elected office, not appointed by the county board.
The current auditor, Democrat Tony Fabri, is not running for another term.
At one point the candidates were asked if they had anyone in mind for the currently vacant chief deputy auditor's position.
Farney called the question "inappropriate," saying it is "a personnel matter." He later said he had no one in mind for the slot.
Danos also said he had no one in mind, "but I do have private-sector contacts who can start that search for me. There's certainly not a political push on me to hire any particular individual."
The candidates spoke at a forum at the Champaign City Building sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the NAACP and The News-Gazette.