12 April 2014

Scott Tingley - County Auditor

First Meeting - 31 March 2014

Actually, my very first encounter with Scott Tingley was to read a brief fire fight between him and his opponent, Greg Hawkins.

Mr. Hawkins first sent an email to county delegates with the somewhat cryptic subject of "Unfortunate Intrigue".  I had Mr. Hawkins as a high school teacher many (not so many...) years ago, and I recognized this as just part of his personality.  Its contents, however, disappointed me as it contained a tired and worn out political strategy that claims Mr. Hawkins opponent is not a genuine Republican and is running only to make it easier for the Democratic candidate to get elected.  His justification was that he learned that Mr. Tingley had registered as a Republican for the first time in order to run for this race and was previously a Democrat.

Mr. Tingley replied also with an email to county delegates.  He first stated that he was not a career politician like Mr. Hawkins who has "run for political office over and over again, hoping that each run will be a stepping stone to a higher office in the future."  This is Mr. Tingley's first time running for public office and his motivation, as stated in the email, was due to his frustration at seeing people elected who are not qualified for the job and that he believed such was the case with Mr. Hawkins.  Mr. Tingley explained that while he was a registered Democrat in the past, in the last 20 years of active voting he has been unaffiliated.  On February 25, 2014, he registered with the Republican Party so that he could attend his caucus meeting in March, and on March 14, 2014, a few days before caucus, he made his decision to run for office.  He explained that he chose to run under the Republican ticket because it aligns with his core values of "traditional family values, the right to worship without government interference, fiscal conservatism, less government, lower taxes, and an individual’s right to self-defense and the right to bear arms".

I left more impressed with Mr. Tingley than I did Mr. Hawkins.  However, I know Mr. Hawkins personally, so I'm inclined to give him a little bit of slack

Second Meeting - 9 April 2014

My second meeting with Mr. Tingley was at the Meet The Candidates meeting in Herriman.  Through his website, I had found several articles about some controversy between his opponent and the county council.  Apparently, Mr. Hawkins had sued the county council and it had gone poorly (more detail about this on my Greg Hawkins page).  I wanted to hear from both candidates personally about it.

Mr. Tingley explained two things about the law suit.  First, he explained that the suit and the manner in which it was executed was evidence of Mr. Hawkins's lack of qualifications for the office; he indicated that a qualified auditor would not have made such mistakes.  Mr. Hawkins didn't follow protocol when he filed the suit, and it ruffled some feathers.  Second, he explained that the suit in general soured the relationship between the auditor's office and the county council.

Briefly, the lawsuit was intended to block the county council from moving the budget office from the auditor's office to the mayor's office.  Such a move would make the mayor the CBO and would reduce Mr. Hawkins's staff.  Mr. Hawkins argued that the council didn't have the power to do that, and he sued.

Mr. Tingley explained that he was supportive of the move made by the county council.  I asked him about balance of power, and he said that there are a great many counties whose budget responsibilities are with the Mayor's office.  In the past, when Salt Lake County was smaller, the county decided to place the budget office under the auditor's office.  As the county great, the Mayor's portfolio grew (rec centers, golf courses, etc.) and now each facility has its own accountant, hired by the Mayor's office.  These accountants would keep the books, and send their data to the auditor's office.  An independent body found out that the auditor's office was not checking the accountants' work, but instead simply redoing all the books.  As I now understand it, this was cited as an inefficiency, so it was proposed, among other changes, that the budget office be moved.

Most of the conversation among the delegates and Mr. Tingley was focused on frustration with Mr. Hawkins.However, with respect to Mr. Tingley's own qualifications, he believes that he will be more engaged than any other candidate, including the candidates from the Democratic party.  He indicated that Jeff Hatch was his boss years ago, and that Mr. Hatch is typically very unengaged.  He stated that he feared that Mr. Hatch would be an "absentee" county auditor similar to Mr. Hawkins.

Unfortunately the question cycle began again before he had a chance to finish, but he stated that his primary goal was to repair the relationship between the county council and the auditor's office.  I believe he sees the same writing on the wall that I do, which is that if it is Jeff Hatch vs. Greg Hawkins, Mr. Hatch will be able to heavily leverage the bad press about the lawsuit against Mr. Hawkins.  Otherwise, the race will be about two candidates that have no political record to attack.

Decision

After this meeting, I made my decision to vote for Scott.  I was impressed with his demeanor, especially his humility, and that I was actually able to meet him in person (some candidates have not made these meet-the-candidate meetings a priority).  Mostly though, I like the idea of having an auditor in the position and I agree that it may be time to give the office new blood because of the tension currently in the office.