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The Right Note: Kudos to the Civic Federation

By Mark Kelly

Thursday - 10/3/2013, 2:00pm  ET

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyIf you missed the story in the midst of all the federal government slowdown news, the Civic Federation passed a resolution calling on the county to hire an internal, independent auditor. The vote was 40-2.

This idea is about more than the well-documented trolley cost under-estimate and the super stop fiasco. Arlington has an annual budget of more than $1 billion, hundreds of millions in cash on hand, and county debt of around $1 billion. Taxpayers simply deserve to receive financial information from an independent voice, similar to federal government offices of inspector general (OIG).

Like federal OIG offices, it is the hope of many of us who believe strongly in this concept, that new auditors will be given autonomy from the County Manager and County Board. Otherwise, taxpayers cannot have full confidence that findings were not in any way compromised by the chain of command.

Unlike the current budget impasse in Washington, the call for additional transparency and accountability from our county government is not a partisan issue. If you look at the Civic Federation executive committee, it is led by former Republican County Board candidate Michael McMenamin, but also has former Democratic County Board candidate Kim Klingler as a member. And of course, you cannot get 95 percent of the votes at the Civic Federation on a resolution without receiving votes from across the ideological spectrum.

The big question remaining is, why does the County Board continue to reject this idea?

One excuse most certain to be offered by the board is that we cannot afford it. To that I would respond — the Arlington County Board spent $1 million on a bus stop. And, the County Board will spend millions in closeout funds next month.

We deserve, and can afford, an inspector general to account for how each dollar is spent. If our elected officials do not provide this accountability, we can only assume the County Board and County Manager prefer to maintain total control over the dissemination of information about our taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.