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County auditors have a colorful history

Published January 7, 2012 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What's up with Republican Salt Lake County auditors?

The GOP has held that elected post, responsible for being the county's budget watchdog, for 32 of the last 36 years and all three of the occupiers have been in the middle of controversies.

To paraphrase Toby Keith, once they are elected, "It's all about me, it's all about I, it's all about number one, oh my me my."

Two of the last three elected Republican auditors were criminally charged with diverting taxpayer money for their personal use. They both served jail time.

The latest auditor-related fiasco comes in the form of our current incumbent, Greg Hawkins, who has not done anything criminally or morally wrong, unlike his GOP predecessors, but still has demonstrated a recklessness with taxpayer funds he has sworn to protect.

Hawkins, who has unsuccessfully run for the U.S. Senate and House, is now in a court fight with the mayor and county council over who gets to oversee certain budget operations that were, until the council's recent action to change the structure, the auditor's responsibility.

The council, in an 8-1 bipartisan vote, moved budgeting functions from the auditor's office to the mayor's office, in accordance with recommendations from the Government Finance Officers Association. Council members and administration officials agreed it was a more efficient way of handling tax revenues.

Hawkins argues that the change can't be made without a vote of the people who elected him as an independent officer and has vowed to fight on through the courts, an expensive proposition for county taxpayers, especially when you consider that every judge who has heard his complaint, both at the state and federal levels, have denied his request for an injunction.

It's fine for Hawkins to fight for what he thinks is the proper process to follow. But here's the kicker, and the reason I lump him in with the aforementioned previous auditors: Hawkins hired his former law partner, without going through the county district attorney's procurement procedure, at a pretty steep rate — $450 per hour. His office requested funding of up to $375,000 for his former law partner to legally fight the change.

Hawkins is the guy who campaigned to be a protector of the taxpayer dollar.

Here are the stories of the other county auditors who vowed during their campaigns to protect the taxpayer dollar.

Former Salt Lake County Auditor Gerald R. Hansen was charged in the late 1970s with nine felony counts and six misdemeanor counts of embezzlement and misuse of public funds. He plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, served 10 days in jail, and resigned from office.

After an acting auditor filled out Hansen's term, the next auditor elected was Republican Craig Sorensen, who had a stormy relationship with other county officials, keeping financial information in secured computer files so others couldn't inspect them, and changing the locks on the doors of the auditor's office. He also maintained a private business while serving as auditor and hired employees of that business as special officers of the auditor's office.

His downfall came when he was charged with using his county credit card to steal about $10,000 worth of gasoline over a three-year period for his personal vehicles. He paid restitution, a $5,000 fine and spent 10 days in jail.

The only elected county auditor over the past 36 years who avoided controversy was Democrat Jeff Hatch. He served one term before being defeated in 2010 by Hawkins because, well, Hatch is a member of that tax-and-spend Democratic Party. —






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