TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

March 17, 2014

Numbers are black and white

CORBIN — Early in my working life, I was an office manager for an insurance agency. While I was setting up a new accounting program with the help of an accountant, I recall him saying why he chose his profession — numbers, he said, are black and white, either right or wrong, leaving no uncertainty.

I’ve thought about that accountant every time I’ve read a state audit of entities in the Tri-County and heard the grumbling of local officials about Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen and his apparent ambition to run for governor. I’ve heard more than one official blame Edelen’s aspirations in a weak effort to deflect blame for poor financial management.

OK. So what if Edelen is aiming for the governor’s mansion and, as part of that effort, strives to not only do his job, but excel at it?

In the private sector, if you want a promotion, you focus on doing your job well. You also make an extra effort to demonstrate your competency and concern for your work. This is what Kentucky’s taxpayers do when they want to be recognized for a job well done — and they are the ones who elected Edelen to his current office and who will determine if he will serve in that or any other capacity he may choose to pursue in the future.

I haven’t heard any taxpayers singing the blues about Edelen’s work. It’s the criticized officials who failed to meet the black-and-white standards of accounting who whimper.

When former state auditor Crit Luallen left office, I worried whether her successor would be as capable and diligent as she had been. I was pleased to see Edelen continue her work and expand his office’s oversight to other overlooked entities, such as special taxing districts.

During her tenure, Luallen had noted a “culture of corruption” that persists in areas of this state where some officials handle taxpayer money as if it belongs to them. Audits her office conducted — as well as some conducted since her tenure — continue to prove troubling financial practices persist.

More oversight, not less, is needed by the state when it comes to the dazzling and confusing array of taxing entities that exist in Kentucky.

These grumbling, criticized officials often strike me as the sort who would disparage those on public aid, yet these officials are the ones who so often act with a sense of entitlement, seeking to spend money questionably — such as for valet parking while at a conference because their SUVs are too big and won’t fit in a self-park facility.

Accounting is black and white, not gray. Tax money is either handled wisely or improperly by elected officials who are servants to all their constituents. And messengers carrying bad news shouldn’t be shot just because we don’t like what’s said.

Here’s hoping those audits — and even more of them — just keep coming.

Becky Killian is the editor of the Times-Tribune. She can be reached at bkillian@thetimestribune.com

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