PEORIA — Voters across Peoria County will be asked at the March 20 primary election whether or not to do away with the elected office of county auditor and replace it with an appointed post.
It's not being proposed as a cost-saving measure, but rather to guarantee professionalism and eliminate politics from the post.
Under the proposal, and rules board members have adopted if the referendum passes, the job would be appointed for a five-year term — longer than any County Board member's term — and applicants for it would be required to at minimum hold an accounting degree and a professional license as a certified public accountant or certification as an auditor or government auditor. There are no current requirements on individuals holding the job, other than that they win an election and live within the county.
The board would require a two-thirds supermajority to remove the auditor, and could only do so for official misconduct or malfeasance. The appointee, in turn, would be forbidden from engaging in any political activity.
The job's salary would be set for the length of a term at its start, as would the office's budget — moves designed to prevent board members from retaliating against a position-holder for probing sensitive topics.
And, resolving a quandary that came up in the 2016 political campaign for the post, the position is given the authority to review accounts of other countywide elected officials. Past auditors sometimes have been blocked from doing so.
However, opponents say the position should be directly elected by voters, giving them final say in the selection, and an accountability from that officeholder directly to the people.
There will be two pre-election forums that citizens can attend to discuss the referendum.
The first will be at 6 p.m. March 12 at Mossville Junior High and Elementary School, 12207 N. Galena Road in Mossville, and will be hosted by County Board member Jim Fennell. The second will be at 6 p.m. March 15 at St. Philomena Catholic Church, 1000 W. Albany Ave., in Peoria and will be hosted by County Board member Allen Mayer.
Voters may cast their ballot on the referendum regardless of whether they vote in the Republican primary, the Democratic primary, or select a nonpartisan ballot.
If it passes, the office would move to an appointed status effective Dec. 1. If the referendum fails, the candidates who win the Democratic and GOP nominations on March 20 for the remaining two-year term for the job would square off in the November election and the winner would take over the job Dec. 1.
Chris Kaergard (C.K.) can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @Chris Kaergard.