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Author: Madeline Cline
County Supervisors Must Demand Financial Accountability
Transparency and accountability are core values of government that our elected officials must work vigorously to uphold. In Mendocino County, we are faced with a test of that value, as critical public reports outlining county finances are months behind schedule.
Annual Comprehensive Financial Reports (ACRF) are essential documents that show members of the public and elected leaders the current state of an agency’s finances. State law requires counties, cities, and school districts to release these reports in the six months following the close of the fiscal year in June.
The last ACFR released for Mendocino County covered the fiscal year running from July 2020 to June 2021, which means we have no audited reporting of county finances covering the last two years of operations. This delay in reporting not only makes accountability and governance incredibly difficult, it is also likely illegal.
Up the coast, our neighbors in Humboldt County faced a similar financial reporting delinquency issue just last year. Their former Auditor-Controller, Karen Paz Dominguez, failed to file different financial reports, resulting in the California Attorney General sending a demand letter threatening litigation and financial penalties. Paz Dominguez took an adversarial position, shifting blame onto other elected officials and county staff.
The difference between the situation in Humboldt and our situation here in Mendocino is that Paz Dominguez faced a Board of Supervisors committed to ensuring accountability and demanding a resolution to the issue. The Board passed votes of no-confidence, approved third-party investigations, and eventually approved a settlement deal to get the Auditor-Controller out of office and bring someone in who could actually do the job. Here in Mendocino County, there has been a lackadaisical attitude from the Board, enabling these serious issues to go unanswered and fly under the radar.
Adding to this issue is action by the Board in 2021 to merge the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector positions, creating a chaotic situation in which the duties of both offices have suffered as the attention is divided amongst competing obligations.
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors must make fiscal transparency, accountability, and responsibility a core value of county government. They have a responsibility to constituents to demand accurate, independent financial reporting from our Auditor-Controller. Mendocino County residents deserve no less.
Madeline Cline is a public policy advisor and 2024 candidate for the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, District 1.