CIRCLEVILLE —When it comes to misinformation, sometimes enough is enough, and it’s reached that point for Circleville Auditor Gayle Spangler.
Spangler, who has served as city auditor and first elected in 1999, said she’s been reading online and hearing comments in public that aren’t true and wanted to set the record straight.
“I have read numerous posts in the online media, public comments have been made by city personnel, and I have received questions from the general public,” she said. “The confusion and inaccurate information being reported is a disservice to our community and instills a level of distrust in our local government. The city is undergoing significant financial difficulties. It is imperative that public officials, city personnel, and the general public understand how the city is funded and operated.”
One specific thing Spangler has heard is that her office is trying to hide information.
“That is so wrong,” she said. “I think it’s also coming out that somehow the finance person controls the budget and that’s not how it works.”
Spangler said her office “does the numbers” and follows the law on how funds can be used.
“My responsibility is to administrate what City Council legislates,” she said. “When they put a budget through, the only budget I control is the auditor’s office and the income tax. Everything else is controlled by other elected officials.”
Spangler said her requirement and job is to make sure that City Council stays within the legal requirements of the finances as dictated by law or vote.
“I can’t tell them what to spend, but if they’re given $1 million, I can make sure they don’t spend $1 million and one,” she said. “I can’t tell them what to spend that million on and that seems to be a real confusion for people.”
Spangler said she thinks the misinformation comes from a lack of understanding in how government works, specifically how the state and voters dictate how money is spent.
“When we pass a levy, like we did a few years ago for streets, it has to go to a special revenue fund,” Spangler said. “That special revenue fund can only be used for expenditures authorized by the voters. Whatever that ballot language is, is exactly what they can use that money for.”
“If we would misappropriate funds in a special revenue fund, the [state auditor] would make us pay it back,” she said.
Spangler said she’s perhaps not done a good enough job informing the public how they can find out what the city spends and where.
“In house every elected official, every department head and every staff that does accounting in the departments has access to the financial system,” she said. “They can look at it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and see the same exact reports I see.”
Spangler said she is confused about how accusations of hiding finances could be made since her office makes all the city’s information publicly available.
“I don’t know how we could be more transparent,” she said.
Spangler said the city also updates its information on Opencheckbook.com, a resources through the Ohio State Treasurer’s Office that highlights bills paid by the city. The program began in 2014 and Circleville’s information first appeared in 2016.
“We balance to the penny every month,” she said. “We post to open check book every month that month’s expenditures. Anyone can go to open checkbook and see every single check or ACH we issued. Every expenditure we had is there.”
“We’re audited every year and we haven’t had a citation in I don’t know how long,” she said. “The audit is posted to our website, the state’s website and there’s even one laying out in the hallway.”
The city has also received awards from the state auditor’s office each of the last four years. To receive that award, the city must achieve a “clean” audit that is on time, with the generally accepted accounting principles and doesn’t have any findings for recovery, material citations, material weaknesses, significant deficiencies, audit findings or questioned costs.
Spangler said her office is open to the public and if anyone has a question about how the city spends its money to contact her office.
“They can always call or shoot me an email if they have a question,” she said.