Auditor: TABOR details are not our job
It’s not an auditor’s job to interpret the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights for county government.
That was the gist of the message Mike Nelson, director of audit services for Grand Junction firm Chadwick, Steinkirchner, Davis & Co., had for Mesa County commissioners Monday morning.
It’s a sentiment that has Commissioner Rose Pugliese wondering if the county should seek auditing expertise from outside the county. She said she’s aware she may face push-back if the county spends money outside the community for auditing services, but she wants to know if there’s a better deal or a better way of doing audits elsewhere.
“Have we ever bid (auditing work) out and have we ever gone out of the county? My personal perspective is it’s a good idea to answer those questions and see how others do it,” Pugliese said after Monday’s weekly administrative meeting.
Nelson presented his company’s 2013 audit at the weekly meeting. Local TABOR advocates have raised concerns that the county fraudulently excluded sales tax, denying taxpayers millions in refund dollars. The exclusion was not flagged as a problem during audits by Chadwick, Steinkirchner, Davis & Co. or Dalby, Wendland & Co.
When asked by Pugliese whether his firm verifies the TABOR calculations made by the county finance department since the sales-tax exemption became county practice six years ago, Nelson responded that auditors made sure information on county financial statements matched the county’s general ledger. Anything beyond basic mathematics was not the auditor’s responsibility.
“Our engagement with you is to give an opinion on the financial statements and our opinion is that the county’s financial statements are fairly represented in accordance with the local county standards,” Nelson said.
Bill Voss, a former Chadwick employee, a former county finance director and one of the people questioning the county’s TABOR interpretation, said he has been asked several times how auditors could have allowed sales tax to be exempted.
“Management is responsible for the preparation and the fair presentation of these financial statements,” Voss said. “If there’s an intentional effort on the part of somebody in management to subvert TABOR, the auditor’s not going to pick it up.”