Editorial: Dukes County government is shocked, shocked by its own incompetence

The news is encouraging: members of the Dukes County Advisory Board, whose members are the blindsided overseers of Dukes County government’s financial management, is asking questions about the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Health Care Access (HCA) programs. For several years, Dukes County has been shifting costs for these initiatives off the county budget, always pleading insufficient financial support and a need for more money from taxpayers. This while the county treasurer, the county manager, the seven commissioners, and the advisory board had a half million dollars under the mattress that they didn’t know about.

How, a taxpayer might very well ask, can a gaggle of 15 elected and appointed public officials with specific and general responsibility for the financial performance of Dukes County government have permitted such a financial hoo-hah?

How is it, you might also ask, that the Say What?-15 are confining themselves to asking questions about IPM and HCA only, rather than taking a top to bottom look at Dukes County government, to see if there is any there there? This page has argued relentlessly and to little avail that the answer to this last question is: There is not. But apparently, repeated embarrassment over decades by Dukes County government due to its incompetence has not prompted any of the Say What?-15 to consider the possibility that things need to change in a wholesale way.

Or, you might be asking, how can the Say What?-15 have tossed aside the September 27, 2010, Department of Revenue (DOR) assessment of Dukes County that made 18 recommendations for improvement, but ultimately concluded that the Dukes County apparatus be dissolved and replaced with something that does something. The county said rather cavalierly that the state investigators had not clearly understood how county government works — which was of course exactly what they had understood.

That review discussed various cockups that undermined confidence in county government and made it unlikely the towns will ask the county to assume regional services.

“Looking ahead,” the investigators wrote, “it may seem reasonable to envision the county, with thoughtful planning, offering additional services under similar management and cost sharing arrangements. However, there are obstacles. The current organizational structure is one. The lack of universal confidence in county government is another, as is disagreement on the role of county government on the Island.”

The DOR urged that the county establish a formal budget process, issue quarterly revenue and expenditure reports, conduct quarterly budget projections, review progress on recommendations made by independent auditors, and publish an annual report. None of which made sense to the Say What?-15, and here we are.