The three Democratic candidates for Champaign County auditor met again Sunday night at their party's pre-election dinner. They talked about their qualifications and their plans, but they never touched on the reason there's a three-way Democratic primary and why Republicans think they have a chance of regaining the office after being shut out after 40 years.
That is: the sitting auditor, Champaign Democrat Tony Fabri, who both Democrats and Republicans agree frequently is absent from his county office at the Brookens Center in Urbana. After being elected to one term, Fabri is not running again.
In a debate last week two of three Democrats mentioned Fabri's situation without mentioning his name.
Democrats, said candidate Ben Carlson of Champaign, "need to restore some confidence to the office. We have not really had confidence in our current auditor for whatever reason, circumstance, he may have been in."
Kevin Sandefur, another of the candidates, added that "someone had to run" for the office "because we had a situation where we didn't really have an auditor for a long time."
The third candidate, George Danos of Champaign, said he plans to "reinvigorate the office and reinstate the creativity demonstrated by former auditors."
"We Democrats have a strong auditor tradition we can be proud of as long as we emulate the best traits of our predecessors," Danos added.
Whoever Democrats choose in the March 20 primary election, they know that Republican candidate John Farney, who is unopposed in his primary, will make the outgoing auditor a central theme in his campaign.
Carlson, Danos and Sandefur also have stressed their backgrounds, qualifications and their willingness to work hard in the office that by law is supposed to audit all claims against the county; collect, analyze and preserve statistical and financial information; report on the financial operations of the county and maintain a continuous internal audit of county operations. The position will pay $86,328 annually for the next four years.
"The next auditor is going to be under greater scrutiny than ever before, which means that you've got to have someone who can provide those assurances to the public that they are doing their job and that they are doing everything possible to provide that transparency and openness and accountability," said Sandefur, an accounting information systems developer at Community Shares of Illinois in Champaign.
He said his experience there, and his pledge to be a watchdog, make him the best candidate.
"The definition of an auditor is to monitor, analyze, evaluate and report," Sandefur said. "That's the definition of a watchdog. Being a watchdog is inherent to the very existence of being an auditor."
Danos also promised to be a watchdog.
"We need a genuine professional with an agenda and a sense of mission," said Danos, a former financial analyst for Christie Clinic and PersonalCare HMO who is a part-time instructor in the mathematics department at Parkland College. "The county deserves a veritable watchdog in the office, one zealous about making certain that our tax dollars are well spent, one who is accessible both to the public and to responsible party officials, one who delights in the day to day operations of the office and is proficient with and even passionate about data."
Danos pledged "maximum transparency and political independence" as auditor. He has been endorsed by Urbana Mayor (and former county auditor) Laurel Prussing, who called him "the best qualified candidate" for auditor.
Carlson, a insurance agent with a bachelor's degree in business management, said he thought he would make the best opponent for Farney in the fall.
"We've heard the words throughout this campaign of 'watchdog,' 'efficiency,' 'transparency' quite a bit," said Carlson. "It's obvious the three of us have similar beliefs if we were to get elected into the office. The difference that I can bring you is that come November I can be the one to defeat J.J. Farney."