Kent aims to nix comptroller position

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court is pushing to eliminate the last remaining county comptroller before the position’s current term ends in 2017.

The Kent County comptroller audits all accounts for the Levy Court and row offices.

The position is also responsible for reviewing financial records of public agencies that receive appropriations from the county and communicates with local banks regarding county funds.

Sweeney by .

George “Jody” Sweeney

It’s the last remaining county comptroller, as it was eliminated from New Castle and Sussex counties in 1965 and 1970.

Kent County commissioners believe the position is an obsolete office that is no longer needed.

“With the elimination of the position, it would save the county about $150,000 to $155,000 per year,” Commissioner George “Jody” Sweeney said.

“That helps the county out a lot. It helps the county save more money, which we can use in other areas.”

“Many of the offices that the comptroller was legislated to audit no longer exist in county government,” he added.

The elected office is a four-year term that is up for election in 2016, which ends in the first week of January 2017.

While it is included in the election cycle, it is not a partisan position.

Commissioner Sweeney said the annual audit of the county is handled externally. Recently it was completed by Barbacane, Thornton & Company, LLP of Wilmington.”

“The staffing level of the comptroller’s office was four people before I came on Levy Court in 2008,” he said.

“One person left short after I joined and a second person moved to another department about 90 days ago. These positions have not been filled.”

For the last eight years the position has been held by Georgette Williams.

She said there isn’t a need for the department anymore.

“Years ago, we were extremely busy,” Ms. Williams said. Everything is done by computers now and when we get a bill it’s already been approved by different departments.

“It’s a ritual office. The Department of Finance has been handling everything and everything is already approved by them by the time it gets to us.”

She plans to retire once her term is up.

“I think that’s why they’re pushing so hard to get this done,” Ms. Williams said. “Once my term is up, it’s easier to eliminate the position before someone tries to file for it.”

Commissioner Sweeney shared the same sentiment.

“I know I spoke to someone, who has interest in the position and I told him what we’re trying to do,” he said.

“If they file for the position and it’s eliminated before the election, then that person will be refunded their money for filling for it.”

If the position is eliminated, the functions and duties will be transferred to the office of Kent County Department of Finance.

Williams by .

Georgette Williams

The legislation for the change has been submitted to The Delaware House of Representatives.

Commissioner Sweeney said they’ve been trying to push for the change since 2011.

“It failed (then),” he Sweeney said. “There were some questions about the checks and balances of the position.

“But for this go-round we went through and changed some things, so hopefully everything works out in our favor.”

He said currently the checks and balances are handled by processes that have been approved and vetted by the Kent County Levy Court commissioners, and includes more than two layers of approvals before final approval by the Kent County administrator.

The county has found a couple of sponsors to back the legislation as well.

“After sending an email in November to every state legislator, both houses and all parties, I received responses from only a handful,” Commissioner Sweeney said.

Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, said he would back the bill, due to it saving the county money.

“Commissioner Sweeney reached out to me about this change,” Rep. Lynn said.

“I’m backing it because not only are all the commissioners fine with this position, but the person who holds the current position feels the same way as well.

“It will save the taxpayers a significant amount of money.”

Commissioner Sweeney hopes everything works in the county’s favor.

“We all believe in this,” he said. “We’re hoping to get this passed for the benefit of Kent County residents.”

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