This Election Day, June 3, Madera County voters will choose between two candidates for the office of Madera County auditor-controller: Maria Hall, CPA, the incumbent appointed by the Board of Supervisors to complete the three years remaining in her predecessor’s term; or Todd Miller, CPA, the challenger. It is time the voters hear from one who has worked in the auditor-controller’s office for the last eight years, six of them as assistant auditor-controller or interim auditor-controller.
Of the two, Marcia Hall is the candidate more able to discharge the duties of the office and deserving of the opportunity to serve a full four-year term as elected auditor-controller. I offer two reasons for choosing Marcia Hall over Todd Miller: 1) when appointed auditor-controller in January 2012, Marcia Hall came to the office with many years of experience auditing government entities; and 2) she has worked diligently to absorb additional knowledge required to execute her duties as auditor-controller.
The same two reasons make Todd Miller a distant second: 1) he has no prior experience with governmental accounting; and 2) if elected, many months of orientation and learning on the job will be required of him before he can be as effective as Marcia Hall is now. For no one comes to the office with all knowledge or skills required to be the county auditor-controller; much of the knowledge is acquired and the skills honed in office.
Since 2009 this county has had three auditor-controllers. The lack of continuity in the person of the county auditor-controller has cost the county precious time to recover from more than a decade of failure of the auditor-controller and the county generally to tighten procedures and strengthen the accounting staff to comply with new and onerous financial accounting and reporting requirements for governments, effective in 2001.
Over the past five years, obvious shortcomings of the auditor-controller’s office (late financial reporting, above all) have come to public attention, repeatedly. Because of the complexity of governmental financial reporting and problems specific to this county, there is no quick fix to bring this county’s financial reporting instantly up to speed. Overoptimistic expectations of easy solutions to the county’s financial reporting problems have obscured Marcia Hall’s efforts during her tenure as auditor-controller to improve the quality and timeliness of the county’s financial reporting.
Voters need to know how hard Marcia Hall and her staff have worked over many weeks to implement software used by many other governments to facilitate preparation of financial statements. Now the department and the county are enjoying the benefits of that work, resulting in greater integrity of financial reports and ease of financial statement preparation.
Much more, however, remains to be done to bring the auditor-controller’s office and the entire county up to current standards of accounting and financial reporting. Rethinking and revising most of the county’s business processes and totally restructuring the county’s financial accounting software (implemented in 1993) are essential tasks yet to be accomplished.
Marcia Hall understands this, and has been working toward these goals. She has tightened controls over cash and disbursements, upgraded the financial accounting software, and streamlined procedures within the auditor-controller’s office. She is working now to involve the entire county in these solutions. Todd Miller has yet to understand the county’s business processes and reporting requirements, let alone offer solutions to improve them.
Rethinking the county’s business processes and redesigning the basic accounting structure are huge undertakings in addition to the heavy daily responsibilities of the auditor-controller’s office. Their completion requires dedicated service by staff and continuity of effort over a period of years from an experienced and committed auditor-controller such as Marcia Hall.
Marcia Hall knows which skills are required of her staff and has begun building the auditor-controller staff to accomplish these tasks. Todd Miller would come to office not yet understanding the routine duties or the challenges his staff faces in their daily operations.
If we do not elect Marcia Hall, progress in the auditor-controller’s office will halt again, while yet another auditor-controller, Todd Miller, must become oriented to the position and acquire sufficient knowledge of governmental accounting and county operations before he can begin to address these challenges. Meanwhile, the county will have suffered immeasurable cost to voters and taxpayers in lost time and missed opportunities to correct these problems.
As a candidate Todd Miller exudes confidence; that confidence will fade quickly, when, as auditor-controller he realizes he does not speak the same accounting language his staff speaks and cannot address the many complex issues his own staff and other departments bring to him daily for a solution.
Todd Miller says he will ensure mandatory audits are completed on time, get the county’s financial house in order, and be our fiscal watchdog. Everyone agrees with these general goals, but they mean little coming from a candidate who does not yet understand the challenges of governmental accounting, the multitude of responsibilities of the county auditor-controller besides financial reporting, or the complex issues facing Madera County more generally.
As county auditor-controller, Marcia Hall is and has been working hard to ensure that the county’s financial statements and audits are completed on time and to get the county’s financial house in order, and she is the most effective fiscal watchdog this county has had in many years.
Individuals opposed to Marcia Hall’s candidacy for personal reasons or who do not possess the experience and knowledge of the office and its functions are misleading voters through an orchestrated negative campaign, blaming Marcia Hall for late financial reporting and any other issue, no matter how trivial, related to the auditor-controller’s functions. I urge voters to reject the personally motivated attacks on Marcia Hall. Her detractors really oppose having a strong, effective county auditor-controller such as Marcia Hall.
On June 3, please cast your vote for Marcia Hall for auditor-controller and for real, continuing improved performance of the auditor-controller’s office.
James C. Boyajian, CPA