Friday, February 23, 2007

Letter to the Auditor (2)

Wms in office
Auditor Trent Williams asks for another raise

Mr. Williams:

Because I did not receive an answer to my previous email of 2/21/07, I visited your office yesterday and you assured me a reply would be coming soon, which I am sure it will. But a story in the Daily Times today about your request for a $994 raise, in addition to the $10,000 you received recently, prompts me to add questions to those I posed in my last email.

  1. Is it true that you do not have any education beyond high school, and specifically you have no degree, 2-year or 4-year, in accounting?
  2. Since graduating from high school, have you had any job experience outside of employment in local government, on the public payroll?

I ask these questions because I find it hard to understand why you believe you deserve more than the $50,700 salary I am told you now receive. To say that other department heads in the city building earn more than you hardly seems enough justification for giving you another raise.

The two candidates you will face in the upcoming election both have college degrees. Russ Doyle, an ordained minister, has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and Crystal Gifford, the mother of two children, has a B.A. from Shawnee State in accounting, has a Master’s degree in the same area from Ohio U., and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in accounting while she is also teaching accounting part-time at Shawnee State. In spite of being a parent, she has found time to get an extensive education in the field of accounting.

I have to wonder whether someone with a solid education and background in accounting would not be able to run the auditor’s office more efficiently and economically than you have. The award the city recently won for accounting actually cost the city at least $25,000, which was the fee you paid to an outside firm to help you with the annual audit that won the award. Who gave you that award? Another outside trade group to which you belong and the membership fees for which I requested in my last email. I now suspect those awards, which are widely distributed to members of the awarding organization, are useful to members to post on their office wall and to publicize during election campaigns, but I wonder if they are really reliable measures of the quality of work that is being done in-house, by the recipients of the awards.

That you would ask for another raise during an election year suggests you may not be able to run a political campaign any more effectively than you are running the auditor’s office. Are you so confident of being reelected that you think you can ask for another raise without the voters strongly objecting? Enough voters may decide that they want someone as auditor who does not have to rely as much on highly paid outside accounting firms. One way to reduce the projected $300,000 to $600,000 deficit is for the auditor’s office to do more of the accounting work in-house. I can believe that it is the mayor who is primarily responsible for the large city budget deficit, as you told me yesterday, but even without a degree in accounting I think I can figure out that the deficit would be less if the auditor's office was not spending as much money as it is on outside accountants.

Thank you.

Robert Forrey, Ph.D.

[On 2-23-07, I received a prompt three-page reply in a pdf format to my Letter I (see my previous post) from auditor Williams. I have tried to transfer his reply to River Vices, but I have had trouble making a readable copy. So I asked Teresa Mollette to post the auditor's reply on her excellent website,, which deserves an award for excellence. I urge readers to read the auditor's clearly written and well organized reply. I will respond to it in my next posting. For the auditor's reply, click here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Letter to the Auditor

wms on steps

Award-winning Auditor Trent Williams

Feb. 20, 2007

Dear Mr. Williams:

This is a formal request under Ohio
's open records statutes.

What I am requesting are any records and letters relating to the membership of the city of Portsmouth
, the Auditor's office, and you individually in the Government Finance Officers Association. I would like to know what membership fees or payments of any kind are made to the GFOA.

I would also like to look at the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) to see if there are pages I would like to have copies of.

The report on the front page of the Daily Times (Feb.15, 2007) began with sentence, “With a projected budget deficit for 2007 ranging between $300,000 and $600,000, it’s hard to find any good news in the city.” I want to better understand how a city in such precarious financial shape is able to win an award for anything, but especially an award “for excellence in accounting and financial reporting.” Have you reported that the city faces a deficit of between $300,000 and $600,000? Is that part of your award winning performance? It is questions like these that as a citizen of Portsmouth
I would like the answers to.

When you have copies of the records and letters, and have a copy of the CAFR for me to peruse, please notify by return email. I trust you will do this with the promptness that Ohio
’s open records law calls for.

Please be advised that I will make emails available to the public, since I know there are others who are as puzzled as I am by a city in a financial crisis, and facing a deficit of from $300,000 to $600,000, getting an auditing award.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation.

Robert Forrey, Ph.D.