Sunday | November 19, 2017
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Auditor resigns; Chief deputy will assume duties

HILO — County Legislative Auditor Colleen Schrandt has left Hawaii to take a job as an auditor with the United Nations in New York City.

Schrandt said Monday that Lane Shibata, her chief deputy, has been temporarily assigned the auditor’s position. Council Chairman J Yoshimoto said Shibata may stay in that position for a while, as the council tries to determine if a new auditor would serve a new six-year term or just the remainder of Schrandt’s term.

“Lane has the working knowledge,” Yoshimoto said. “We’re not in a crunch time, so to speak.”

Schrandt, a former financial analyst for the county, had been the county’s auditor since her 2006 appointment by then County Clerk Casey Jarman. A 2008 charter amendment made the position more independent by having the County Council select the auditor, who serves a six-year term. Schrandt’s term would have ended in 2014.

If the council decides to seek a new auditor, it would probably advertise with a national association of auditors and then conduct interviews. Schrandt, who earned $94,284 annually, has endorsed Shibata as a permanent replacement, and Yoshimoto said he’s met with Shibata as they’re working on the 2013-2014 budget.

Schrandt often found herself at odds with the council, especially Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi and former Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda. Both councilmen frequently targeted the auditor’s budget for cuts, although the annual $826,484 budget was just a fraction of the county’s $365.3 million spending plan.

Recent reports from the auditor’s office included recommendations on the county’s property tax assessment policies, a study done by external auditors under her direction. Recent internal audits pointed to a cash-handling system deficiency in the Department of Water Supply, problems with contracts and change orders in the Department of Public Works and long-standing backlogs of maintenance projects in the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Asked what she would like to have accomplished during her tenure, Schrandt admitted to a long list.

Most important for the county, Schrandt said, would be stronger whistle-blower protections so people would be less hesitant to report waste and fraud in government. The county also needs an independent waste and fraud tip line, rather than the current tip lines in the mayor’s office and council chairman’s office, she said.

“There should be a regular report to the public on how many calls are received, data on the types of problems and their resolution,” Schrandt said. “There should be some statistics and accountability for the whole process.”

Schrandt also said tracking software that checks against other databases could save money. For example, if the county could check its accounts payable against its accounts receivable, it wouldn’t cut checks to people or companies that owe the county money.