Tue December 4, 2012
Jefferson County Clerk's spokesman: Audit a 'Bit Mean-Spirited, and Possibly Politically Motivated'
Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw is citing a letter from the county attorney that found no wrongdoing by her office in the wake of a scolding state audit two months ago.
Earlier this year, State Auditor Adam Edelen's office released a report that found poor record-keeping of charitable funds for groups such as the WHAS Crusade for Children and Metro United Way. It also cited other questionable practices that were against state law, such as Holsclaw paying out $99,200 in Christmas bonuses to employees last year and as well as shortchanging the Crusade by $1,300.
But an Oct. 31 letter from the Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell says his office found no need for action and defended the clerk’s activities.
Holsclaw has personally hired public relations professional Larry Bisig as her spokesman. He says the clerk has been a model of good government and was cleared of any wrongdoing and suggested that Edelen’s report is motivated by politics.
"In some ways I have to indicate the audit seems a bit mean-spirited, and possibly politically motivated in some areas," Bisig said.
"This is not political warfare. The governor’s race doesn’t start for 36 months. And I certainly hope that’s not the intention of the auditor."
Edelen is a Democrat who is a rumored gubernatorial candidate in 2015, and Holsclaw is the only Republican elected to a Jefferson countywide office.
The county attorney's letter also suggests that Edelen's recommendations are trying to prohibit public agencies from helping local non-profits, which "would endanger the partnership the Crusade, Metro United Way and may other worthy charities" have with the clerk.
But Edelen’s office says that the county attorney's letter has misinterpreted their findings, and that O'Connell's office is trying to divert attention from problems in the clerk's office.
"It is hard to believe that in light of these circumstances your letter states that audit polices endanger the partnership charities have with public agencies," Edelen wrote in a November 8 response to O'Connell. "It is my view that this type of mishandling of funds not only damages those partnerships directly, but could also damage the public's trust by drawing into question whether their donations are getting to the charities."
The clerk's office defended its practices, however. It outlined a handful of changes to its bookkeeping practices in response to the audit report:
>>Separation of account activity in the Employee Charitable Fund to insure money raised for any employee incentives is identified as such.
>>The use of gas cards for vehicles on Election Day. Milieage logs will now be set up for drivers to account for all mileage and related expenses.
>>Eliminating the use of the word "gift" from salary adjustments.
Holsclaw, who was first elected in 1999, told the media that she called the press conference to make it clear that "nothing illegal" had happened under her administration.
But in a statement released to WFPL, Edelen says he is not seeking an adversarial relationship, but warned that if Holsclaw doesn't make significant changes then the auditor will hold her office to a higher standard in the next report.
"It is troubling that Ms. Holsclaw seems more concerned about her public image than she is in heeding my recommendations that seek to protect the taxpayers’ money from potential theft, fraud and abuse," he says. "The clerk, who also had a cantankerous relationship with my predecessor, has still not addressed problems such as poor bookkeeping, lack of proper controls and illegal Christmas bonuses to her employees last year."