Auditor makes public record request, believes commissioners have bias regarding his office

Habermehl responds to Steed’s comments

By Gary Huffenberger -




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WILMINGTON — Clinton County Auditor Terence “Terry” Habermehl wants to see how commissioners dealt with department heads’ requests last year for additional funds, in view of commissioners asking to meet with him following his recent request for non-General Fund dollars.

Habermehl wants to look at the public records on all additional appropriations sought last year by Clinton County government departments, and whether those records show commissioners responding differently to his recent request than to similar requests in 2017 from other departments.

Of his public records request, Habermehl said in a News Journal interview Monday that he wants to see whether the commissioners office looks at every non-General Fund allocation in the way it’s looking at his. “I think that’s a fair question to ask,” said the auditor.

Commissioner Kerry R. Steed, referring Monday to Habermehl asking for public records, said, “What I’m thinking is that obviously Terry doesn’t like to be questioned on the operations of his office. And because of that, he wants to see if there’s a bias on this [the commissioners] office’s part with regards to are we singling him out for questions versus any other additional appropriations request that’s made on behalf of this board.”

Later Steed added, “All we’re asking for is transparency on what is behind the decisions he’s making in his office, and obviously he’s not interested in providing those quickly or easily. He wants to go through some kind of a tussle over the public records request.”

But in the News Journal interview, Habermehl said he advised commissioners last fall of his plan to seek an additional appropriation during 2018 for the Auditor’s Office real estate fund. He said he also told them why he planned to do that, and they thought the strategy was prudent.

The auditor said he told commissioners he would come back seeking an additional appropriation once he received final numbers on the amount of carryover dollars in the real estate fund in the aftermath of large expenditures to conduct property revaluations. The auditor’s additional appropriation request amounts to about $156,000.

Habermehl added he does believe there is a bias toward his office, saying there have been a number of actions commissioners have taken in the past year and a half that suggests that, including eliminating a position in his office without discussion.

He responded to Steed’s comment about transparency by saying the Citizen Transparency feature on the county auditor’s website is accessible by all citizens, and includes every transaction that runs through the auditor’s office and every expenditure by every county government department that runs through the auditor’s office.

For their part, commissioners noted the official minutes of their meetings are online, and accordingly they are going to ask their legal counsel whether the commissioners clerk must go through all the minutes in response to the public records request, or whether because the minutes are online it is legally permitted to have Habermehl access the information on his own.

On another matter, commissioners went through a printed list of remodeling changes that the Board of Elections would like to see made if it moves, as proposed, to the County Annex Building on South Nelson Avenue. Most of the listed items commissioners were fine with, but on some of the modifications they wondered about the cost.

At one juncture, Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said she would have to see the prices beforehand, which Steed verbally agreed with. And at one point in the discussion, Commissioners President Patrick Haley said he would oppose buying all new office furniture just because of a move to a new location.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.


Steed File photo
Habermehl responds to Steed’s comments

By Gary Huffenberger