So Charleston County auditor candidate Paul Gawrych has these new campaign signs that promise “Higher Standards. Lower Taxes.”
Which might make you scratch your head if you know what an auditor does. Or, more importantly, what an auditor doesn’t do.
“I’ve had some people call me up and say: ‘You’re running for auditor. How can you raise or lower taxes?’?” Gawrych says.
The answer, of course, is that an auditor can’t do either. The auditor is merely responsible for sending out tax bills, which the assessor sets.
So why is this an elected position?
Good question, and it doesn’t just apply to auditor. Why do we need to elect a treasurer, clerk of court or coroner? The same would apply to register of mesne conveyance, if anyone knew what that person does.
Besides, of course, run for elected office.
Ed Fava, a former Charleston County administrator and county councilman, has long believed that some of these offices should be appointed by the county administrator.
“To get elected, you basically have to be popular,” Fava says. “With the complexities of finance these days, these people ought to be hired professionals.”
That’s a good point. After all, the electorate in its finite wisdom could elect Al Parish treasurer — he’s got name recognition! And then what happens? We find out that the new county financial strategy includes investments in collectible gnomes?
To be fair, Fava — like many others — has long held this view, and says it’s not about our current crop of officials. Treasurer Andrew Smith is a CPA, so the process works sometimes.
Of course, the candidates tell a different story. Auditor Peggy Moseley says an elected official is more accountable to the public than an appointee. “A lot of people would say it’s a better system when the people decide,” she says.
And that’s a fair point too.
Gawrych agrees with his opponent, which brings him back to that campaign sign.
He says an auditor accountable to the public can have an effect on taxes.
“We’re going to be very efficient,” he says. “If everyone is doing their job, you bring in more revenue and at the end of the day, it works out.”
In other words, more revenue means lower tax rates. Moseley makes the same point, so voters are going to need a little more to go on.
People from off have long wondered why we elect so many people. If we elect the clerk of court, why not the deputy clerk of court? And why are largely bureaucratic positions partisan anyway?
Uh, because the parties want it that way. If they could politicize dog catcher, it would be on the ballot too.
As much as Fava and others make persuasive arguments on elected versus appointed, the point is likely moot. South Carolina loves its elections way too much to cut a ballot.
In fact, it’s a wonder we don’t elect the administrative assistant to the register of mesne conveyance.
Whatever that is. Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.