PEORIA -- The Peoria County Board's executive committee on July 31 took the first step in placing a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot asking voters whether to abolish the position of county auditor.
And on another issue, the head of the board's judicial committee said tax dollars spent on the recent fund raising visit of President George W. Bush will be investigated.
After a long debate, the committee voted 5-4 to recommend that voters be asked whether to abolish the office of auditor. The committee's recommendation goes to the full County Board for its August 14 meeting.
Carol Van Winkle now holds the position, and was appointed after Steve Sonnemaker resigned when he was elected County Clerk. Van Winkle defeated Kent Rotherham in the Democratic primary to become the party nominee. Republicans do not have a candidate in the race.
Board member Allen Mayer led the group opposed to placing the question before the voters.
Mayer and others argued that the position is part of the checks and balances of county government, and an appointed auditor could not honestly audit finances of the bosses, the county administrators and the board itself.
They also suggested that taking this issue to a referendum would waste time, money and energy, and that voters are not likely to give up their right to elect a county wide official.
Mayer said after the meeting that if voters approve the referendum, the office apparently would be abolished immediately, and Van Winkle would be left without an office to fill even if elected.
Proponents of the referendum said abolishing the office has been in the works since the board created its own finance department. Some said the move won't save money, but others, afterward, said it would save money.
Two other proposals, to place referendums to abolish the offices of coroner and recorder of deeds, fizzled. The committee voted 8-1 against placing the coroner measure on the ballot, then the other proposal was never placed before the committee for a vote.
Lynn Pearson commented that those two offices were offered merely as "smoke and mirrors."
Though Van Winkle is a Democrat, two Democrats on the committee voted to abolish the office, Pearson and Jim Thomas.
After the meeting Van Winkle said that while she is not opposed to voters having their say, a referendum on this office is a bad idea. "Peoria County is large enough to have an elected auditor," she also stated in an e-mail. "I don't see the taxpayers giving up the power to select their own watchdog. My main concern is the question of an appointed auditor. It is a bad idea. We can have an independent elected auditor - and we should. It is just not RIGHT to have the same people in charge of the books...in charge of the person who audits the books."
Also at the meeting, Bob Baietto, a Republican who chairs the board's judicial committee, reported that the county sheriff has been asked to report on "tax dollars spent for political fund raisers," namely how much tax money was spent on the recent visit of President George W. Bush at a fund raiser for Aaron Schock, who is running for the 18th District Congressional seat.
"The fund raiser is a key issue," Baietto said afterward.
Asked whether Schock's campaign may be sent a bill, Baietto said he was waiting for a report from the sheriff. Police and other public employees turned out in force for the president's motorcade.
-- Elaine Hopkins