Clark continues push to redefine auditor's role

John Clark, seeking the post of Kitsap County auditor, has made it known that his efforts to redefine the role of the post he seeks could extend beyond the general election.

"If I am elected, I will make sure the Auditor's Office will perform the duties as outlined by the law," said Clark, the Republican nominee. "If I am not elected I will sue the commissioners to make sure the law is followed."

Clark's argument centers on whether budgeting authority should fall under the purview of the auditor or the county commissioners. Kitsap County has assigned budgeting to the commissioners since about 1985, according to former Auditor Karen Flynn.

"There was a controversy about whether the budget should be under the auditor," Flynn said. "But as it is now, it is more direct and efficient. Either way, the commissioners have the ultimate budgeting authority."

Clark argues that the auditor does not work for the commissioners, but as an elected official is directly responsible to the public. This separation, he feels, provides a necessary system of checks and balances.

"Having the budget underneath the commissioners is like giving Congress total control over the budget without having the Office of Management and Budget," he said.

Kitsap County Interim Auditor Walter E. Washington, who was appointed to fill Flynn's unexpired term, sought an clarification from the Washington Association of Counties about Clark's interpretation.

WASC Executive Director Deborah Wilke said that the auditor would have no discretionary authority in the preparation of the preliminary budget and it is largely a function of compiling the submissions of all the county programs and departments.

Wilkie said, "The statute is flexible enough that counties can do it either way."

Clark, along with Kitsap Republican Chairman Jack Hamilton, disagrees with this assessment.

"Charter counties have this choice," Hamilton said. "Kitsap is not a charter county."

"This will be whatever he needs it to be," Washington said. "The budget is a consensus document, with input from all the departments. (Clark) is promising all these changes, but I don't see what he could do to make it happen."

"I think this is critically important," Clark said. "I will not give up on this."

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