La Porte County Treasurer says Auditor's mistakes due to lack of trust and communication
The auditor’s op/ed trying to explain the withdrawal of the county’s A+ rating is incomplete at best. It’s just the latest in a series of mistakes by his office that are avoidable had he only communicated with others, cooperated or asked for help.
Instead, it’s been one attack after another since Mr. Stabosz came to office. I’ve tried working with him from day one – I understood the challenges he would be facing in this office. He told me before being sworn in he’d never worked in an office before and never supervised employees. That inexperience shows.
LaPorte County Treasurer
From the moment Tim Stabosz took the oath, my office has tried to assist him numerous times, only to have him accuse me of “sabotage.” I told him that no matter how much he didn’t personally like the county attorney, he needed to learn to work with him.
He must not remember the mess this county was in when I took office in 2013. Not only did I work non-stop to correct the tax billing debacle, but within two days of taking my oath, I discovered a massive fraud by the former chief deputy auditor, costing the county about $150,000.
My first call in January 2013 was to County Attorney Shaw Friedman, who worked with me and the FBI as the U.S. Attorney’s office conducted its investigation and prosecution of the former chief deputy auditor.
There’s a reason that the County Commissioners in late 2020 put me in charge of all aspects of the Michigan City Courthouse construction. They knew with my insistence on detail, transparency and accountability, I would help bring the project in on time and on budget.
The same with the trust they vested in me to keep track of all county credit cards as treasurer, even though that traditionally rests with the auditor.
These mistakes are costing taxpayers because of a failure to trust or consult others, whether it be the county attorney or myself. County government is a team sport and the only way things function well is if all officeholders stop playing partisan politics and reach across the aisle to be effective.
For instance, his failure to simply tell the county attorney and our financial advisors that he’d missed the July 15, 2021, bond payment by one day is an example. They only found out about it four months later as we were ready to do a refinancing of the courthouse energy savings bonds and had to disclose the one-day delay on a public website.
Because of the delay, that refinancing was canceled and taxpayers are out $200,000 in guaranteed savings.
The same with his failure to double check tax bills before they were sent out earlier this year. Had he asked, I’d have told him that auditors like myself and Mike Schultz always sampled to catch errors before sending them out. In this case, the supplemental homestead deductions were identical from one year to the next, and any sampling would have caught that.
Ditto with his failure to contact the county attorney on the S&P bond rating until it was too late. On June 13, when he called Mr. Friedman for help, the attorney immediately went to work getting a letter from his office and the commissioners that day, which prompted the State Board of Accounts to release the 2019 audit the next morning, even though there hadn’t been an exit conference.
Unfortunately, SBOA’s release came just hours after S&P had issued its press release indicating our county and 26 other entities had lost their credit rating. Had the auditor called the attorney even a week before, we might have averted this embarrassing episode.
I say again to Mr. Stabosz: Please, stop trying to criticize and/or attack others in county government. Start working with us and stop the blame game. You’ve got 2½ years left in your term – vow to do a better job of communicating, asking for help when needed and try to get along with others – even those you don’t like.
Joie Winski is the current La Porte County Treasurer, a former two-term former La Porte County Auditor, a former two-term Michigan City Common Council member.