Letter to the Editor—8-10-21

What’s all the fuss about? The Geauga Park District made a small administrative change right? No.  About a month ago the Park District bailed out of the smoothly running and highly secure computer accounting county-operated data network. That system keeps track of all things financial for the county. Monies collected from taxes and other fees go into the county treasury. The Auditor then reviews the county’s bills as he should, by law, and assuming they provide the proper evidentiary materials, authorizes that the bills be paid. A problem occurs when there is no description of what the bill is for. Our current Auditor looks back to the 1.5 million dollar loss to the county by the last Auditor and insists on proper accounting of the public’s money.

To avoid this proper oversight Judge Timothy J Grendell, who controls the park, by appointing all park commissioners, has discovered a perfectly legal loophole to circumvent scrutiny.  The park district hired its own treasurer/ fiscal officer to do the oversight. The County Auditor will no longer provide oversight. My guess is that the day this new treasurer/fiscal officer does not approve a bill will be the day he’s looking for a new job.

None of this had to happen. The system that the park district was using was working well and at almost no taxpayer cost. This highly secure electronic system of accounting is being replaced by a hastily cobbled together system with the potential for exposing both the park and the employees to hacking and ransomware.

When the Park bailed out on June 28th, they had no system in place. As early as February County Auditor Charles Walder provided a comprehensive list of the services to have in place to make a smooth transition. The Park District did nothing.

Why would the park district ditch a minimal cost well working and secure accounting system, trading it for a slapdash one which will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of unneeded expenses? Is the answer that they want no oversight of expenditures? Now the oversight of income and expenditures is overseen by an in-house Park District employee who answers ultimately to Grendell via the park board commissioners.

 Is the fox guarding the henhouse?

We have some of the finest parks and natural areas in the state of Ohio. The people of Geauga love their parks and they generously support the levies that maintain the parks but behaving like this may seriously erode the trust we have in those who manage these wonderful parks.

I urge the Park commissioners to reverse this unwise and costly decision and return to using the county’s accounting system.

Dave Partington

Categories: Commentary

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