Crawford County Auditor clarifies official numbers
By Robin Hidebrand,
Crawford County Auditor
On March 6, Republican voters will choose their party’s candidate to run for County Prosecutor in November. Public records requests have been made to the County Auditor for certain financial data of the County Prosecutor’s Office. I AM CONCERNED THAT VOTERS MAY BE UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT THE COUNTY AUDITOR IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CALCULATED PERCENTAGES AND BAR GRAPHS THAT HAVE BEEN PRESENTED AS FACTS IN RECENT NEWSPAPER ADS AND OPEN FORUM LETTERS. This information was NOT COMPILED BY THE COUNTY AUDITOR and is NOT ACCURATE.
I think it’s important to provide voters with FACTUAL financial data from the County’s audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports; and from County financial records, which are a matter of public record.
• Since 2003, (the first full year that Mr. Flegm was County Prosecutor, and responsible for submitting the Prosecutor’s budget to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration) the Prosecutor’s budget increased 28.09%; OR on average 3.12% annually. Actual expenditures paid through 2011 have increased 24.77%; OR on average 3.10% annually.
• By law, the rate that the Board of County Commissioners established in 2000 for the taxpayers obligation of defending individuals who are unable to pay for an attorney in our community, is $60.00 per hour. IN OTHER WORDS, THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS DETERMINED THAT THE LOCAL RATE THAT A PRIVATE ATTORNEY SHOULD BE PAID FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICES RENDERED IS $60.00 PER HOUR.
• Mr. Flegm’s Assistant is paid $62.71 per hour.
• Mr. Flegm’s opponent is paid by the County, on a part-time basis, an hourly rate of $60.00.
• Mr. Flegm’s opponent has earned $84,012 from the County since 2003 in his capacity as a part-time City Prosecutor. These payments are in addition to his annual salary paid by the City of Bucyrus.
• Two local defense attorneys supporting Mr. Flegm’s opponent are also paid by the taxpayers of this County $60.00 per hour, and have received a combined total of $320,371.48 in taxpayer monies since 2007.
Furthermore, I AM CONCERNED THAT EMPLOYEE SALARIES HAVE BECOME A TARGET IN THIS CAMPAIGN. Each elected officeholder is charged in accordance with Ohio law for the oversight and management of their respective offices. Throughout County government there are MANY EMPLOYEES WHO ARE PAID MORE THAN CERTAIN ELECTED OFFICIALS of the County. Throughout our County, there are MANY CITY EMPLOYEES PAID MORE THAN COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN AND HOW IS THIS RELEVANT TO THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE OFFICE? More importantly, how do we as voters gain a comprehensive understanding of the facts to make an informed decision so that we are not just reacting to one or two pieces of information, that if taken out of context, appears to be excessive?
I would encourage the voters to look further into the numbers, and to try and get a better understanding of the legal responsibilities of the County Prosecutor’s Office.
Is Mr. Flegm’s office effective in the prosecution of criminals? Why are certain individuals with the defense bar, and Mr. Flegm’s opponent, so determined that Mr. Flegm’s assistant is paid too much when the rate of pay is only $2.71 more per hour than what these defense attorneys, and Mr. Flegm’s opponent, are paid by the County?
I would respectfully suggest that VOTERS BEWARE of financial data that has been spun in many different ways, and used to further the type of misinformation and rhetoric that isn’t necessary or wanted by most of us when deciding who to vote for as County Prosecutor
I will conclude with one final question for voters, HOW IS FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY MEASURED? As County Auditor, I try to measure fiscal responsibility by looking at the ACTUAL EXPENDITURES associated with a particular department or office. I also look at the amount of revenue that a department or office is able to generate through user fees (albeit many are set by law), on-going operating grants, or federal and state reimbursements for work already being performed and which help offset the cost of operation for that department or office. I also consider what action an official has taken during their tenure to help increase the general operating revenues of the County’s General Operating Fund, which BENEFITS MANY OTHER COUNTY OFFICES.
County Prosecutor Stan Flegm provided the legal assistance to the Board of County Commissioners to privatize the County Landfill Operation. The privatization of the landfill was critical because the County’s population did not generate enough waste, and therefore revenues, to pay for the actual costs of operating a County-owned landfill. As such, the County’s General Operating Fund was subsidizing, through cash flow loans, the landfill operation. These General Fund subsidies were not a viable long-term financial solution for the landfill operation, and user fees could not be increased enough to offset the cost of operations. Simply put: government could not compete with the private sector for the waste streams necessary to make the landfill’s financial operation viable on a long term basis.
The Board of County Commissioners, with the assistance of Prosecutor Flegm, took the bold step of privatizing the County Landfill. The privatization of the landfill has generated $1,456,941.29 in ADDITIONAL REVENUES for the County’s General Operating Fund just since 2010, and will continue to generate additional revenues as the debt obligation for the landfill is paid, and as additional lessor fees are collected. Mr. Flegm and the Board of County Commissioners demonstrated tremendous foresight and courage with the decision to privatize the landfill and the financial returns for this decision will benefit local citizens for years to come. As County Auditor, I consider the steps taken to privatize the County Landfill as another good example of how fiscal responsibility should be measured because the additional revenues realized with this decision help to support other County offices, including the various Courts and law enforcement.
I have provided voters with relevant information that is a matter of public record and available upon request. I WOULD CAUTION VOTERS TO CONSIDER THE FACT THAT JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE CITES THE COUNTY AUDITOR’S OFFICE AS THE OFFICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DATA, DOESN’T MEAN THE OFFICE HAS COMPILED THE DATA TO INSURE THAT THE INFORMATION AND PERCENTAGES ARE PRESENTED ACCURATELY. Please know that MR. FLEGM has always approached his job with PROFESSIONALISM, INDEPENDENCE, FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY and, most importantly, with the ETHICS that are critical for a County Prosecutor to do his job well while serving the people of Crawford County.