Supervisors decide to leave payroll-related tasks to the auditor-controller for the time being and hire an external company for the payroll audit | Lost Coast Outpost | SehndeWeb



Auditor-Comptroller Karen Paz Dominguez addresses the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. | Screenshot.

On Tuesday, in a rare instance of communal agreement, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support a proposal backed by County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes and Auditor-Comptroller Karen Paz Dominguez — namely, to keep payroll management functions under the HQ desk until the end of the current fiscal year (June 30).

In the same motion, the board voted (unanimously) to hire outside accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA), for $279,000, to perform a payroll audit. According to Hayes, the company will take a “holistic view” of county payroll operations with the goal of finding sources of recurring errors and identifying steps to correct them.

If you’re just logging in, the county’s payroll function has been a source of trouble and controversy for years. In late 2018, shortly before Paz Dominguez took office, the county moved payroll from its office to the human resources department. Trouble ensued, and in 2020 the board briefly outsourced payroll responsibilities to a private automatic data processing (ADP) company, only to find out – after paying the company $146,000 – that the company could not make its systems work with county systems.

Since then, payroll-related duties were transferred to human resources and finally, last August, returned to the Office of the Auditor-Comptroller, over the objections of a number of county employees.

Snafus persisted, despite help from outside firm KOA Hills, and when the board last considered the matter on March 2, the meeting turned out to be acrimonious – another flashpoint in the ongoing conflagration between Paz Dominguez and other county staff, including supervisors and department heads.

The board failed to make a decision at this meeting on whether to leave the payroll duties in the CA office, transfer them to the CAO office, or do something else. Instead, the board pursued the matter and ordered Hayes and Paz Dominguez to work together, along with human resources director Zachary O’Hanen, in hopes of finding a potential solution.

On Tuesday, staff presented the board with three options:

  1. keep payroll in the HQ office for the foreseeable future and keep working to make things better
  2. forward it to the CAO office, or
  3. sit tight, leaving the payroll in the HQ office for the next two months, at least, before reassessing things in July.

Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Director Tabitha Miller presented the board with a list of the pros and cons of each option, noting that Paz Dominguez did not necessarily agree with the lists. The staff’s recommendation, she said, was option 3.

Miller also urged the board to devote more resources to resolving the $28 million in unreconciled deals from fiscal 2019-20, a looming issue discussed earlier in the meeting that is delaying submission by the county of his long-awaited 2019-20 single. audit report.

“We keep talking about our backlog of the single audit report and our other reporting requirements, and the county’s impairments and impacts,” she said. “And I think we’re downplaying the potential damage to our federal and state funding.” Continued delays could end up costing the county millions more, she said, and she asked the board to allow the office of the chief executive and the office of the treasurer-tax collector to work. with the auditor-controller’s office to conclude the work on these discrepancies.

“We’re not at a point where it’s rocket science,” Miller said, and she explained that the remaining work is mostly a matter of simple research and data entry, tasks that staff could handle.

Returning to the payroll issue, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone thanked Paz Dominguez, Hayes and O’Hanen for working together as requested.

Paz Dominguez made a presentation, telling the board that she had heard them “loud and loud” when they asked for improvements in communication. She recounted recent efforts at a payroll “think tank” she organized, saying staff from various county departments came together to address and categorize issues and agree on a goal.

Members of the think tank plan to continue meeting after each pay. Paz Dominguez shared a screenshot showing a collection of Post-it-style notes from a recent think tank meeting that was hosted through a proprietary program called Stormboard, saying, “It’s a tangible result of these communication efforts.”

She also updated the board on changes she has made to payroll tasks, including a new organizational system facilitated by another proprietary software product called Trello Board, which will allow county staff to track every step of the payroll process.

Paz Dominguez then bragged that of more than 2,500 W-2 tax forms issued by her office for fiscal year 2021, only 30 had errors that needed correction. This, she said, equated to a 99.99% accuracy rate.

This led to a brief argument with First District Supervisor Rex Bohn over the underlying math.

See the video clips below. First, here is the statement from Paz Dominguez:

A few minutes later, Bohn disputed his calculations, saying the accuracy rate was more like 98.8%, not 99.9, prompting Paz Dominguez to offer to do the calculation right in front of him:

Who is right ? We’ll let readers do their own math.

Madrone then asked if all of the W-2 issues had been resolved, and Paz Dominguez replied that all but three had been resolved, with the other three being sent back to the vendor that sells the county’s financial software.

“It’s a big step forward,” Madrone said. He then asked, skeptically, who exactly was on the “staff” recommending Option 3. He looked pleased when Hayes told him that she and Paz Dominguez had discussed the matter and agreed on recommendation, as does O’Hanen. .

“It looks to me like Gate #3 has all kinds of prizes behind it, so I’m looking forward to that one,” Madrone said.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson moved a motion to accept the staff recommendation for Option 3, accept a $279,000 contract with CLA for a payroll audit, and authorize the county administrative office and office from the Treasurer-Collector of Taxes to work with the Office of the Auditor-Comptroller on resolving the $28 million in unreconciled transactions.

The vote was 5-0 in favor.

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