County Insider Questions Auditor Joe Harn's Work as Tax Saver
[This open letter was sent to us and we are republishing it unaltered]
April 10, 2014
To the Board of Supervisors' for the County of El Dorado,
I work in an accounting department of the county. My job is made difficult by the inferior accounting system, manual processes and poor reporting from many county systems. To answer simple accounting management questions an employee has to gather, verify and analyze information from many sources and manually combine and reconcile. It does not make the accounting job easier when information is not available all year and needs to be "estimated".
How can an accounting manager know the financial position of a department without all the information? In El Dorado County, you guess. How does the county waste general fund dollars? By not billing the funding sources for approved costs. Our Auditors office fosters this environment.
Journal entries, especially the large ones that allocate charges to multiple areas, such as index codes or other county departments, do not get posted into the county fiscal system until right before the fiscal year end closes. Accounting departments have to maintain shadow systems to keep track of the unposted information. The journal entries are held all year without communicating the reason to the departments. Calling the auditor's office with questions is frowned upon and considered career suicide.
Accountants use this information to prepare invoices to the state or federal government, whoever is the grant holder, to be reimbursed for the costs. After a grant closes there is a small window of time to charge late items. if the grant is not able to fund the late charges, the usual funding source is county general fund. Some examples of wasting county general fund.
Example — A-87 Cost Plan — El Dorado County is the only county in the state without an approved plan. A cost plan is developed annually by the same auditing manager and approved by the state. The cost plan allocates the "cost of doing business as a county" (BOS, CAO, HR, IT ...) across all the county departments. Each department can charge approved cost plan charges to state and federal grants. Otherwise it remains county general fund cost. No state approval — all county general fund. Example — Approval of Rates — Last fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, information Technology Department and Building Maintenance was not allowed to charge the county departments for its services. The reason was many departments could not get rates approved by the auditing manager (same one who develops the cost plan) Again, this manager does not work well with others and often ignores requests for help. These are all allowable charges to departments grant funding. Again, county general fund paid the bill. So far this year, departments have again NOT been charged for these costs and it is ten weeks until the year end. No department billings — all county general fund.
The county may be able to recover some of the costs if next years A-87 cost plan is approved, first this year's needs approval. Does the Board have an update on this problem? This is related to state audit findings, does the board stay informed on the county's financial standing?
Why this happens is a cause for great speculation among county employees?
The same auditing manager is often at the center of a problem between the department and processing — pick one — paying or creating invoices, journal entries, vendor contracts... so many ways to hold a department hostage. She will become ridiculous about pennies, literally. This manager is disrespectful and rude verbally and in emails. Many department heads have been called incompetent or accused of committing fraud. She has her own interpretation of accounting and federal rules, processes are designed around her beliefs. The processes put into place are often heavily manual and redundant. Then her interpretations change and those processes are considered incompetent and fraudulent, even if they are based on her direction, and they need to be changed NOW and it usually means county general fund cost. The changes are initiated by angry emails carbon copying every person in authority in the employee's work place and of course Joe. She does not respond to questions by phone or email. This often causes delays, confusion, errors and further insults because employees do not think like her. The numerous ways this manager has abused her position against county employees and outside agencies is atrocious. Joe let's her have her way hiding behind her CPA and he likes her viciousness. This manager is protected by Joe, she is a liability to the county, a cancer to collaboration, and shamefully everyone knows it but does nothing.
The Auditor uses his office to bully department heads into firing, demoting, and reprimanding its employees, changing complex department processes in a short time frame without clear guidance, not signing important state and federal reports unless an unreasonable change is made, often unrelated to the report. I often wonder if the reason Joe is so aggressive and uncooperative is because he is diverting everyone's attention from the man behind the curtain. A man holding the checkbook for 20 years is not a safe policy for any business.
I want the Board to know that the county has serious accounting problems that should not be tolerated. It is costing the county general fund_ Use the power of your office to hire an outside auditor, not through Joe, get an auditor from outside the area, and take a close look at the books and processes. Learn Governmental Accounting, ask if FENIX will provide you with reports that will communicate clearly the county's financial position. Demand that the Auditor follows ordinance and laws pertaining to his office.
Joe and his "employee" are harassing departments on a daily basis. it is common knowledge. Eventually an employee will have a solid legal case against the county and then the gates will crash with the supporting lawsuits. If everyone knew and did nothing? Who is liable? Can we afford to allow this behavior and business policy to continue?
Signed — Someone who wants to do a good job protecting tax payer dollars.