I'd love to say that the stuff coming out of the Erie County Comptroller's office is comical. It's not. It's sad and it's scary. I've written several other pieces on it here (See #5 Elect a Journalist) and here. I wrote them because it's that important.
Erie County Republicans must be absolutely beside themselves with joy, watching Mychajliw continue to stumble through audits and cash flow panic warnings, while using every opportunity to take it to the Poloncarz Administration with premature press releases and social media attacks. The recent release of the audit report for the Department of Social Services Temporary Assistance Unit clearly illustrates that the Comptroller's office is only looking for blood, and not actually for good government, because the audit itself was anything but good government practices and revealed some serious problems inside Mychajliw's team.
A few things revealed by the audit and the circus leading up to its release - first, Teresa Fraas, Mychajliw's Deputy Comptroller for Audit is either completely partisan or completely over her head. The letter that the Department of Social Services issued in response to the Comptroller's audit report lists multiple violations of the Generally Acceptable Government Audit Standards (GAGAS) issued by the United States Government Accountability Office. Now, one could say that they aren't the law, they are just generally accepted standards, and that might be true for other cities and counties, but in Erie County, the use of those standards are codified in the Erie County Charter. A source in the Administration shared with me that Fraas wrote an interoffice memo advocating that the GAGAS weren't actually laws, just best practices and didn't have to be followed to the letter. The audit itself, by the way, indicates that they did follow the GAGAS. So, which is it? I can't help but wonder if the GAGAS include deception to gain access to confidential documents and breaching confidentiality agreements by taking and holding onto the documents, opening up the county to potential lawsuits, fines, and credit downgrades. Arguably, she broke the law. Fraas needs to go. If she doesn't resign, she needs to be fired.
The second thing that is now clear is that the office tasked with the County's integrity, is lacking it. Mychajliw is the guy that the buck stops with. He wanted the hot seat. He hired these people. If they are not playing by the rules, if they are lying, that is his responsibility to control. If they are bumbling around, that is also his responsibility. Unfortunately, not only did Mr. Mychajliw come to the office without auditing experience, his career before this job, which we all watched in living color at 6 and 11, was also devoid of management experience, which is arguably more important than the auditing.
This first audit was a disaster. Mychajliw made a big deal out of hiring only the "best and the brightest" for his office, regardless of political party, he said. If egregious breach of the rules that govern the Comptroller's office, as well as fabrication of stories about how records are obtained is what the"best and brightest" have to offer, then we should pass. We should demand better. An independent Comptroller's office is essential to this county. This Comptroller's office isn't independent. It comes with the preconceptions that everything the Poloncarz Administration does is bad, and that they are the enemy. It is beholden to a political party. The tone of every press release and social media attack is indicative of the politics oozing from underneath the Comptroller's office door. Mychajliw knows that. That is his expertise. Using words and tone to incite, tools of his trade.
The party, for its part, did what it needed to do. It did nothing. Not one of the people I respect in the Erie County Republican establishment, not Kevin Hardwick or Lynne Dixon or Ed Rath said a word when it became public that the evidence against the County Executive and Department of Social Services was concocted. They added to the lack of integrity. When the Comptroller wants to talk about party bosses and party politics, he has only but to look in the mirror.
As I said earlier, an independent Comptroller's office is essential. The taxpayers of Erie County deserve a watchdog. But, who watches the watchdog?