That was the best rapid fire question from the SHS auditor candidate's debate last week. You can watch the entire thing below, or scroll past it and read a long and boring collection of real-time notes I took while watching it myself:
Thank you to the staff of the Sandusky Register for providing the Erie County candidate debates on-demand. Making voting decisions are much easier when you have the information at your fingertips like this. Kudos to the SR.
The following are my kinda boring/opinionated notes from the auditor's debate at SHS. Overall, I think Jeffrey won. He sounded more in command of the subject matter and made some pretty strong points to which Paul really had no good answer.2:00 Jeffrey: (to the students) It's very important for you to watch where the money is going and to ask questions. (Good point - and that's the purpose of the auditor -- watching money. Nice to see this point made to HS government students...) Paul: "There's no preconceived notions in the auditor's office." Huh? Where did that come from? No context to even figure out what he's talking about. Sounds like he's trying to fend off an existing perspective that there actually are preconceived notions in the auditor's office. 4:00 -- Paul runs through how he came to be county auditor. (Paul refers to his job with the auditor as a 'total career change.' Eh...okay.) 9:15 Jeffrey: "Auditor is check and balance on all other departments." In short, auditor accounts for funds. Believes most important thing right now is to re-evaluate property value. We have holes in our system that are not addressing the needs of the county. 11:00 Jeffrey talks about taking responsibility for the performance of the office. Wow, that's refreshing to hear. 12:00 Jeffrey says there are documented problems. Some property values supposedly haven't changed in 10 to 15 years. Wants everybody's taxes and property values to be consistent across the board. 13:00 Paul begins to explain functions of auditor -- real estate / financial side (actually handling money, collecting, paying bills, making payments) -- and then he's......kinda.....trailing off.....Paul says he's just following Ohio Revised Code when he decides valuations. This must be his defense of Jeffrey's accusation about failing to re-appraise properties for such a long time. Jeffrey folds arms. Looks like he wants to pounce on the dude. Ha. 15:00 Paul says that there's a misconception that real estate values have dropped 20 to 30% "at.....some....point...." (Eh, isn't that true? Haven't real estate values dropped, eh, lately? I'm sure I've heard that somewhere in the past couple of months.) Well Mr. Paul had a paper from the Ohio Department of Taxation that said there were no changes of real estate value in 2009. [pfffft....yeah, right] 16:00 Jeffrey really really really wants to respond to Paul's theory....Westerhold goes to student's question instead. Nooo!! Give the mic back to Jeffrey!! HS student: "You'll make 68,000 a year. Do you plan on giving a little portion of your salary back to the community?" Paul and Jeffrey both answer yes. HS student asks tax spending related question -- Jeffrey explains that auditor's job is to account for money, not make decision on how the money is spent. 23:00 Westerhold beams from most accurately guessing how much tax money is collected in Erie County. Congrats Matt. You win....nothing. But that was cute. 26:00 HS student: "What do you want to accomplish in the next 4 years if elected?" Paul: Revaluation of properties. (Hey, don't bother bro. According to you and your "piece of paper" no changes have occurred. Why start now?) 28:00 Jeffrey's gonna get back to Paul's point about property valuations not changing. Jeffrey characterizes Paul's claim as 'kinda misleading.' Paul folds hands and gives the old 'aw crap' look at the camera. Jeffrey continues: The state issues guidelines - they don't say that every property value in your county has remained unchanged. 30:00 Paul offers rebuttal. Eh...kinda weak answer. Cites specific property sales that support his theory. Well, the other side can do the same. I'd say that making a claim that property values - overall - have not changed in the county is not something you can defend by citing a few examples. Anyone who buys or sells a house in this area knows it's not true. Jeffrey is fiddling with his hands. He really wants to talk about this! 32:00 Jeffrey gets pretty heated about this. Ooh...starts getting into "perception is reality" good government talk.... 36:00 Audience member has mic. Starts talking about valuation anomalies in Erie County. For Paul to accept any more questions on this is to admit that he's wrong that property values haven't changed. Really dumb mistake for him to make, politically speaking. 40:00 Still going back and forth on property values. Ooh, now Paul is implying that the auditor can't assess a property's value until it sells. Huh? 45:00 HS Student: How can the county save more money? By raising revenue or cutting expenses? Jeffrey's main point is to examine expenses. Cut expenses. Paul says it's important to make sure you have basic services to attract businesses.
Rapid Fire:Question: How did the employee from the Treasurer's office steal $150,000 and remain undetected by the auditor's office?
Paul: It was a computer problem that prevented us from catching on. We did catch her eventually though.
Jeffrey: Computer system was contributing factor - not the cause. In 36 years of accounting experience I have never had a checkbook that didn't balance. Never had an audit that wasn't perfectly clean. I do not understand how you cannot see that $150,000 was missing until somebody told you.
Ouch. Paul got toasted on that one.
Jeffrey 1, Paul 0.