PEKIN — Some Tazewell County Board members appear to have decided upon the merits — or, perhaps, the demerits — of having an elected auditor.
They also appear ready to leave the ultimate decision to Tazewell County voters.
A temporary committee that has been reviewing the auditor's office plans to suggest the position become an appointed one. That suggestion might be presented next month to the County Board's executive committee.
If the full board considers and approves the recommendation, the question is to appear on Tazewell County election ballots, most likely in November 2018.
The proposal mirrors one in Peoria County, where voters are expected to be asked in March whether to abolish auditor elections. The Peoria County push helped reignite such talk in Tazewell County, where two years ago officials considered but didn't pursue a change.
In both counties, lack of professional financial qualifications among some elected auditors has been cited as an impetus. At least one Tazewell board member cites more than that.
"I want to take the politics out of it," Mike Godar said. "Not saying that it's happened, but we could have an auditor who has it in for someone of the opposite party, or the same party."
Godar forms one-third of the auditor-review committee. Chairman Mike Harris and Sue Sundell are the other members. They met Wednesday night at the McKenzie Building in Pekin to determine how to state their case to the executive committee.
The County Board would appoint the auditor, who reviews bills before they're paid. But all three committee members said the auditor position must be independent of the board, to better insulate against cronyism and financial malfeasance.
In advocating for the status quo, current auditor Shelly Hranka and predecessor Vicki Grashoff have stressed independence. Some committee members appeared uncertain about how to accomplish that.
"What is the structure?" Sundell said. "Who is going to be doing the hiring and the firing? Who is that person going to report to, because independence is so very important in this."
Harris suggested those details can be delineated in the coming months. So might be additional duties, including financial reviews of and assistance to county departments.
Godar referred to a recent situation in which the sheriff's office saved $10,000 on cellular telephones.
"I'm sitting there thinking, 'What would I rather have (that office) do, law enforcement or monitoring mobile-phone bills?" Godar said. "That should be the function of an auditor."
Prior to Hranka's election last year, the board modified the auditor's duties and reduced the office's salary and number of employees. That has helped lead to tension between the board and Hranka, who is running in the 2018 Republican primary for county clerk.
This year and in 2015, county officials have said the appointed-auditor effort was not a reflection on the current office-holder. Harris reiterated that view Wednesday.
"No matter what happens with the existing auditor, our relationships don't have anything to do with it," he said. "There will be a claim that there is."