Council chair’s defense of county auditor lame

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“Call the Tune” by Mike Anthony
Executive Editor
news1@callnewspapers.com

The soap opera “As the County Turns” took another twist last week with County Council Chairman Sam Page’s lame defense of the council’s hiring of county Auditor Mark Tucker.
Page, a Democrat from Creve Coeur who represents the 2nd District, joined 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, 4th District Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Black Jack, and 1st District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, in voting to hire Tucker as county auditor in February.
Tucker has come under fire from County Executive Steve Stenger, who last week called on the County Council to terminate Tucker, citing the fact that no audits have been produced during his tenure and that Tucker faces a $91,496 federal tax lien dating back to 2011.
The county executive questions the auditor’s qualifications, writing in a Sept. 5 letter to Page, “A delinquent tax debt of this magnitude demonstrates Tucker’s lack of personal fiscal responsibility compounded by his failure to disclose this vital information to you as his character reference, longtime friend and the individual who convinced a majority of council members that it somehow made sense to hire a man with no accounting experience to perform complex accounting work for St. Louis County.”
We concede that under the county Charter, the qualifications to serve as auditor are vague — “at least five years experience in accounting and shall possess such further qualifications as may be provided by ordinance.”
Page believes Tucker is eminently qualified for the $85,000-a-year job and has been hindered in his duties by a lack of staff. But given that Tucker has yet to produce one audit, we wonder what he has been doing with his time? In defending Tucker, Page said Tucker hasn’t produced any audits because the council hasn’t requested any. Really? How lame is that?
Under the Charter, the auditor is charged with performing a variety of duties — primarily self-initiated — rather than waiting for the council’s direction. Although Tucker has publicly produced no work product, he has indicated he intends to release an audit soon.
In the private sector, employees are terminated every day for incompetence and neglect of duties — reasons the Charter cites as grounds for removal of the auditor.
Based on Tucker’s underwhelming performance as county auditor, we believe an excellent case can be made for his immediate termination.

This column has been updated to reflect the correct party affiliation of Councilman Ernie Trakas.