Friday, June 19, 2009

Audit the auditor: Republicans file petition to examine Russo's books

Well, this is inventive! The local Republican party, using an obscure law, filed a petition today to force an audit of county auditor Frank Russo's office.

“With Commissioner Dimora and Auditor Russo as caretakers of the county finances for the last decade," citizens "deserve a thorough review of the county finances," says Cuyahoga County Republican chairman Rob Frost in the press release. The Republicans point to the references to an anonymous "Public Official 2," who is obviously Russo, in the federal corruption charges (pdf) filed against three former county employees last week.

The Republicans have found a 1953 state law that says -- get this -- any 20 citizens can file a petition saying they want the county auditor or county treasurer's books and papers examined. Then the local common pleas court judges shall -- that is, they must -- appoint a three-person committee to examine the books and make a public report. The examiners have subpoena power (enforced by "any constable or sheriff") and can compel witnesses to appear.

The Republicans, who had no trouble getting the 20 signatures, risk having to pay for the exam. One of the petitioners has to put up a bond and has to pay for the audit if the three examiners finish their job and decide there was no good reason to do it. The examiners get paid the princely sum of $3 a day.

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