Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County Names New Inspector

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County Names New Inspector

Article excerpt

SARASOTA COUNTY

In an attempt to build community trust, an accredited inspector general will soon handle audits and investigations of Sarasota County government finances and employees.

Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller Karen Rushing selected Jeanette Phillips, formerly the director of internal audits, to take on the role.

The designation comes as some Sarasota County residents say their confidence in county government has been shaken. In March, the new county administrator fired Ethics Coordinator Steve Uebelacker. Community members, who were concerned about the decision and trying to figure out who is holding officials accountable, thought Phillips was replacing him, though Rushing said that was not the case.

"She's not taking over ethics," Rushing said at Tuesday's County Commission meeting, where she and Phillips discussed the new position and accreditation process. They also tried to explain the difference between the inspector general and an ethics officer.

The push for the clerk's office accreditation is not new, they said. It began after procurement and purchasing violations were unearthed in 2011, stirring public outrage. Rushing's staff has been going through the necessary training and she anticipates they will achieve accreditation next year.

She said her office is taking an unusual step to gain the public's confidence. Of the 67 counties in Florida, two have gone through the level of accreditation they are striving for, she said.

Apart from the new credentials and addition of a peer review every three years, nothing will change in how the clerk's office handles audits and investigates suspected abuse, fraud or waste, Rushing said. "There's no new person, there's no new duties," she said.

Under Florida's county government system, the clerk's office and the county commission have an unusual relationship, with a mix of independence and inter-relationship. …

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