The State Auditor’s investigative reports on local governments sometimes document really bad, and even criminal, behavior by local government officials. In other cases, the findings are more about sloppiness, although sloppiness that gets bad enough can have criminal implications. We can’t necessarily help you out on the really bad behavior, but here are three recurring issues in the “sloppy” category for which you have the complete power to avoid a State Auditor’s write-up.

1.Balance your checkbook.

So many of the Auditor’s reports include a finding along the lines of “and the bank statements hadn’t been reconciled to the Town’s own books for months and months.” Why? How?

2. Follow your own rules.

You expect your residents to follow your ordinances and processes, so hold yourselves to the same standard. If (for example) your policies say that elected officials won’t be reimbursed for private car mileage unless it’s pre-approved, then don’t reimburse unless it’s pre-approved. If your policies say catering for the holiday party needs to be bid out, then bid it out. If the officials don’t like the policies, they can change them, but follow what’s in place.

3. Learn how to go into closed session, how to come out, and what you’re supposed to do when you’re in there.

You can’t just go into closed session “for attorney consultation.” You have to properly come out of the closed session, and back into your open session, before adjourning for the day. There are rules about the minutes you have to keep. The presiding officer (and the attorney, if they’re in the session) have to keep the conversation from straying into impermissible topics. This issue is more complex than the first two, but it’s still within your complete control.

We don’t know how the priorities or approach of the new State Auditor will affect any of this. But we know that following the guidelines above will keep your entity in better operating condition, and we are all for that.

Click here for our disclaimer, click here to learn more about our public finance practice, and click here to send us an email. If you want to read the State Auditor’s investigative reports, here’s a link.