Wisconsin

Board Audit Vague, Leaves Details to Reform Skeptic

Policy

By: Paul Thurman

The Milwaukee County Board voted on Thursday in favor of an outside audit of the County Board and County Executive Departments. But the audit, if one does take place, won’t be fully independent of the Board. The vague plan that was passed gives Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic the authority to hire a private firm to conduct the audit only within yet-unspecified parameters established by the chair.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander expressed concerns about this planned audit in a statement released Friday:

 “I worked hand-in-hand with corporate counsel to ensure that the audit would provide a detailed look at performance efficiency and effectiveness without any embedded conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, the Board tossed aside a well-defined plan in favor of something with no details, no objective or scope.”

Chairwoman Dimitrijevic also announced on Friday that the board will be pushing its own set of reforms, in part as a counter to reform ideas pushed in the state legislature by former board member State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R). Dimitrijevic declared, “We are delivering on the promise of government reform discussion that is local and inclusive.”

The promises of discussion sound nice, but in some ways Milwaukee County communities have already spoken. An advisory question placed on the ballot in the spring election last April asked voters whether they thought the County Board should be reduced. All 12 communities voting on the question agreed that 18 supervisors is too many.

The Board’s only response to that public input was to ignore the outcome of the advisory referendum.

This isn’t the first time they have failed to act on information presented to them in the past. After state and county audits in 2002, 2004 and 2007, supervisors failed to take action on significant reform ideas even though several were presented to them after those audits.

Rep. Sanfelippo’s reform plan uses state legislation to cut supervisor pay to $15,000 a year and reduce the board’s annual budget to $1.1 million.