I am concerned that the Nov. 14 Gazette opinion is based on incorrect information as the writer did not interview anyone from the Auditor’s Office.

It would appear that the statement that the county auditor is an “accounts payable clerk” is not in agreement with the Montana Code Annotated statutes that govern the office. I would recommend a review of the statutes. It is unfortunate that an opinion completed by the County Attorney’s Office from 1992 continues to surface in Yellowstone County. That “opinion” is out of date and does not agree with current operations of other county auditors in the state of Montana. I have continued to request an attorney general opinion but have meet resistance for 15 years I have been in office.

The current budget of $230,861 is 0.19220 percent of the total Yellowstone County budget of $120.1 million. As comparison, the Finance Department budget of $610,171 is 0.5079 percent of the total budget.

The computerization of Yellowstone County, which was a goal set and met by myself as county auditor, has enabled an improvement in the management of the financial information. However, computerization by itself does not prevent errors and potential fraud by users.

This opinion indicated that the Finance Department audits payroll and payables. They do neither. The only office that does is the Auditor’s Office. We review payroll for all county employees each payroll cycle. All payables, as per statute, are required to be reviewed and approved by the county auditor. We review all payables to guarantee the correct documentation, account allocation, contract compliance, as well as accuracy to meet policies and statutes. A quick view of potential overpayment corrections for FY17 was $493,499, FY16 was $53,029, and FY 15 a total of $42,994. The budget amount for Auditor’s Office operations is insignificant in light of the county dollars saved.

The office has had at least one accountant on staff in the last eight years. This has been an ongoing issue to recognize the staff for their abilities. Although the county has refused to pay the staff as accountants, we have been fortunate to acquire skilled accountants. The current staff has an associate degree accountant currently in school and an experienced CPA.

Debby Hernandez, Yellowstone County auditor, has announced that she will resign on Nov. 30.

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