By Wayne Allen
Scioto County Auditor David Green says he’s open to the idea of putting the county checkbook online, though the county commissioners have voiced their concerns about the idea.
The office of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has an ongoing initiative aimed at getting local governments and associated agencies to place their checkbook online. Earlier this year Mandel sent a letter to 18,062 local government and school officials representing 3,962 local governments throughout the state calling on them to place their checkbook level data on OhioCheckBook.com at no cost.
OhioCheckbook.com was launched on Dec. 2, 2014, marking the first time in Ohio history when citizens could see every expenditure in state government. Since its launch, there have been more than 275,000 total searches on the site. OhioCheckbook.com displays more than $408 billion in spending over the past seven years, including more than 112 million transactions.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings with the treasurer of state’s office. We saw a demonstration and then a followup kind of a technical meeting with them,” Green said.
When asked what he thought about the idea, Green said, “I’m open to the idea.”
Green said he wants to wait to implement the program in his office, because there are no local governments currently using the system.
“There are no local governments online at this point. I want to wait until after the first wave of local governments went live, to see how it worked out and we will then consider implementing it,” Green said.
All of the Scioto County Commissioners have voiced concerns about implementing the system.
“There have been a number of communities that have gone to the online checkbook. Somehow, some folks feel like that’s more transparent. In a lot of counties and here the auditor writes every check,” said Mike Crabtree, chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners. “As one commissioner my opinion has not changed. Those things cost a lot of money and is repetitive. Anything anybody wants out of this courthouse is public record.”
Green does not believe implementing the system will create more work for his office.
“We will run a report from our financial system and either upload or email that report, to the treasurer of state’s office. The way it was presented, it will not be that much additional work for us,” Green said.
Crabtree said he’s not opposed to Green putting the county checkbook online, “but I’m not going to force his (Green) office to do the online checkbook either.” Crabtree said with all of the check and balances in place to guard county money, putting the county checkbook online seems like a waste of time.
The Governing Board of the Lawrence Scioto Solid Waste Management District chose not to put their finances online; due in-part to the fact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes their finances available online.
“I wanted to make clear what my position was, because it’s my understanding the state is going to come down on us, because we chose not to put the solid waste districts checkbook online. They don’t have a checkbook all of their checks and accounting runs through the auditor’s office,” Crabtree said. “If David Green goes online, the solid waste district is online.”
Crabtree used the example that if he’s going hunting, he’s not going to carry two shotguns.
“We have auditors that come in here and they do their thing. Everything is public record and this is just doing something else extra that’s unnecessary,” Crabtree said.
When asked about advantages of the system, Green said, “transparency of local government spending. I think that’s what the treasurer of state is aiming to implement. It may even reduce some of our individual public records requests, from time to time we do get requests for different spending. We can refer to the treasurer of state website, if we would go forward with it.”
Crabtree said if Green puts the county checkbook online he’s not going to oppose it, but will not put his blessing on it, nor is he comfortable with the idea.
Commissioner Bryan Davis said the commissioners are not against transparency within reason.
“Auditor Green reserves the right an elected official, to run his office the way he wants to run it,” Davis said. “Or (Commissioners) main concern is the financial stability of our elected office holders. We’re responsible for the purse and we have to make sure the county stays healthy.”
Davis said if Green chooses to go forward with putting the county checkbook online he would support it.
Commissioner Doug Coleman believes the idea is a waste of money and there are other ways to get the same information.
For more information about the program visit OhioCheckbook.com.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT