Talking finances: Two running for auditor-controller
First of all, what does an auditor-controller do?
Attendees to a Thursday forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County learned that answer, and about the two candidates running for the office.
The office — currently held by Marcia Salter, who isn’t running for reelection — is up for election June 7. Rob Tribble and Gina Will are running to take her place.
The auditor-controller administers the county’s major financial, payroll, capital assets and property tax apportionment systems. The office exercises general supervision over the accounting forms and methods of keeping accounts of all its offices under control of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and for those entities that maintain their funds in the county treasury, including special districts and school districts. The Auditor-Controller’s Office also performs periodic internal audits of county performance and other entities.
The current term for this office is four years.
HOW TO DECIDE
Both Tribble and Will spoke to how voters should make their decision when casting their ballot.
“That is a tough one, because I do think that knowledge and experience are crucial when considering who to elect in this position,” Will said. “While we are not policymakers in the sense in how funds are spent or how the budget is developed, we do establish policies and procedures that protect the assets of the county and taxpayer assets. So, from that perspective, we are charged with making sure that we establish policies and procedures that not only follow government accounting standards but laws.”
“Policies and procedures are internal to the auditor-controller,” Tribble said. “It’s important that everybody understand that you are protecting the integrity of the office and that everything you put out, that the quality is absolutely there. At the same time, I think it’s important for the auditor-controller to advise the Board of Supervisors (about) the impact or sometimes unintended consequences of some of the actions that they take, and I do believe that (the auditor-controller) is a position that is more public-oriented then it currently is.
The candidates also fielded a question about whether the job should be appointed or elected.
Will believes it’s important to have it be an elected office from the standpoint of the independence that’s needed in the Auditor-Controller’s Office.
“It’s important for it to be independent, not only for the management but for the policymakers, so that as we complete audit and review financial transactions, we have that independence to take necessary action if we need to remedy any issues,” Will says.
“This is exactly what we did in the city of New York,” Tribble said. “There was a comptroller, there was a mayor, (and) they argued over everything. They didn’t even have the same chart of accounts. If you could imagine trying to run a county across 96 separate agencies and not have a common chart of accounts? We established one central authority for all financial systems and sent out a letter to all suppliers that you will not get paid unless it comes on this with this stamp — that’s it. That was finally put into place to establish financial control in the city of New York and that was the right answer because everybody went willy-nilly spending money everywhere.”
Gina Will said the department is currently doing many things well.
“We have a solid staff that’s performing a number of services that are required by the office,” Will said. “For the last 14 years, we’ve received awards for excellence in government reporting. I think some of our challenges are the ongoing government board of standards pronouncements that we continually have to implement. They’re time consuming but again have a fairly new staff but capable, willing, and ready to learn new requirements, so it’s just bringing them up to speed and having them be completely comfortable with those responsibilities.”
Tribble said part of his motivation for running for the auditor-controller position was serving on the grand jury. He thinks that the department should have the ability to turn over information to the district attorney.
Kayla Anderson is a freelancer with The Union
Rob Tribble holds a bachelor’s degree with a focus in economics and astro-geophysics from the University of Colorado, as well as a master’s of business administration in finance from the University of Chicago. He was on a grand jury last year and his experience has encouraged him to run for this office. Tribble said that early in his career, when the city of New York went bankrupt, he was part of the solution that helped get its payroll back on track.
As current assistant auditor-controller for Nevada County, Gina Will said she has more than 25 years of senior fiscal management experience and has helped the county recoup and receive millions of dollars in disaster response expenses and coronavirus funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. Before joining Nevada County’s accounting office, Will functioned as the finance director for the town of Paradise from 2008-2020. She said her greatest professional achievement was developing and implementing a financial recovery plan for the Camp Fire to maintain critical public services for the community’s recovery. Before her job with Paradise, Will was the chief financial officer for School Services of California from 1995-2008.
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