Auditor Asked To Keep Lid On Reports

February 17, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

The County Council has ordered the county auditor to stop making management audit reports public.

Management audits differ from financial audits in that they examine how a department is run. Financial audits examine a department's accounts.

The problem with making management audit reports public, said council chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, is that "they deal with personnel matters."

Although management audit reports do not name individuals, Gray contends that an auditor's criticism of a departmental procedure is by extension a criticism of the person responsible for the procedure. That extension makes the audit report a personnel matter that should be kept private, Gray says.

As an example of the kind ofthing he doesn't want made public, Gray pointed to an Oct. 10, 1990,story in The Howard County Sun based on the management audit of the county's animal control office.

The story quoted the auditor saying that many animal wardens believe "they may be placed in dangerous situations without the proper training," and that the wardens wanted the county to provide handguns, tranquilizer guns, customized vans, and two-way headsets for their protection. The audit report did not identify the wardens or their boss, Tahira Williams, by name.

The auditor recommended the wardens be given everything but the handguns. The county replied that it would supply the vans and the headsets, but not the tranquilizer guns.

That was too much of an invasion of privacy for Gray. He said publication of what he called the "stun gun" issue was in reality a private squabble that should not have been madepublic.

With consent of the council, he has instructed the auditor to send future management audits reports directly to the council, which will then decide what information should be made public. Gray took the action at the council's monthly staff meeting Thursday.

Council member Darrel Drown, R-2nd, was the only council member to question the order, saying he was concerned about the public perception ofit.

Gray responded that it was not his intention to keep the audit reports secret, but merely to remove the "matter of personnel" fromthem.

"I think we all agree with that," said council member ShaneE. Pendergrass, D-1st.

The auditor, Ronald S. Weinstein, who is an employee of the council, then assured council members that all future management audit reports would be for their eyes only.

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