Taylor provides the county's new charter government with nearly two dozen recommendations that could save county taxpayers $2,289,000 annually, if fully implemented.
"I would say it's misleading, yes. It was an audit that tried to come in and downgrade the office," Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo said today, in an exclusive interview with The Investigator Tom Meyer.
Russo, a Democrat, criticized Republican state Auditor Mary Taylor for basing her findings on old numbers. Russo says his office implemented many of the changes even before Taylor issued her report.
Taylor noted that Russo has no formal hiring policy.
"There's no structured hiring process anywhere in the county. It's up to the individual office holder on who they hire and for what positon," Russo told Meyer.
Russo has been under fire over the years for hiring family and friends.
In November, 2009, Cuyahoga County voters passed a measure that will reorganize county government and replace the current county auditor's office with a county fiscal office. It will also replace the 3-member commissioner board with an elected county executive and an 11-member county council.
"Cuyahoga County taxpayers deserve well-organized and efficient government services," said Taylor. "This report can serve as a guide to charter government officials as they organize the county's new fiscal office following their election this November."
State Auditor Mary Taylor website
The performance audit released today examines multiple areas of the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office.
Read complete 78-page audit (PDF)
The report provides 22 recommendations for officials to consider that would save public tax dollars. The recommendations include:
- Reducing the cost of the tax administration and property service function to be more in-line with peer counties, which could save $878,000
- Reducing staffing levels in the consumer services and weights and measures functions, which could save $563,000
- Requiring employees to work a full 40-hour work-week, which could save $246,000
The audit shows that the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office employs more people per citizen than peer counties. Taylor used Franklin, Hamilton and Stark counties for comparison.
Additionally, average employee salaries are 5.2-percent higher than their peers.
The report also outlines recommendations that can help improve office operations in areas such as human resources, contracted services and purchasing practices.
- The recommendations include: Establishing formal hiring policies and procedures that will allow the county to objectively select qualified candidates for open positions
- Developing formal job descriptions and adopting a salary structure that reflects appropriate work requirements and job duties of each position
- Requiring the use of a competitive bid process when making purchases over $25,000 to help ensure transparency and objectivity
- Currently, the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office has no formal hiring policy and lacks a consistent process for interviewing and selecting candidates, which could result in hiring unqualified employees.
- Some employees earn more than their peers despite having worked at the office for a shorter period of time. The audit recommends that officials determine if salary discrepancies are justified.
- Finally, by failing to document purchasing decisions through a competitive bid process the county increases the risk of paying more for goods and services.
Last year, Cuyahoga County Commissioners and the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office passed a joint resolution authorizing the Auditor of State to conduct a performance audit of the County Auditor's Office.
Performance audits report on the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations through peer comparisons and benchmarking to industry standards.
A performance audit is a valuable tool for agencies seeking to improve operations, identify cost savings and make better use of existing resources.