Tazewell County Auditor Shelly Hranka on Tuesday filed suit against county officials for allegedly stripping her of her statutory duties and failing to provide her the funds, staff and materials to do her job.
Hranka filed the suit against the Tazewell County Board, Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman and Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz. Umholtz was included in the suit for allegedly disregarding Hranka’s request to appoint a special council to represent her. She said Umholtz cannot represent the County Board and Zimmerman and her because of a conflict of interest.
There has been a great deal of conflict between the board and Hranka over the past several months. The board appointed an ad-hoc committee to look at eliminating the elected auditor’s position. That committee recommended to the executive committee on June 13 to send the issue to the full board. The executive board meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday. If it agrees with the ad-hoc committee’s recommendation, the full county board will consider the referendum on June 27.
Hranka said Monday that the county wants control of the internal audits and that it took the staff she needs to do the statutory work of the office. The auditors’s office in 2016 under then Auditor Vicki Grasoff was funded at $146,000, said Hranka. She said when she came into office the two employees there had been transferred to the finance department and her budget had been cut to $53,000. She said the office was virtually devoid of any documents when she arrived. The computer had been wiped clean, and the only documents in a file cabinet pertained to labor contracts and other contracts. She said she does not have full access to the county software.
Zimmerman said there was no material on the computer because it was a new computer. The suit states that requests for the materials removed went unanswered.
In the suit, Hranka states that all of the work was transferred to the new finance director. The budget was passed by the board with little funding to the auditor’s office and transfers all personnel to the finance department.
The suit alleges that the Hranka has been denied access to all documents pursuant to state statute.
Hranka is asking that a special council be appointed for her to represent her in the suit. She said Monday that she is paying Attorney Donald K. Birner thus far with her own private funds.
According to the suit, Hranka wants the court to restore her statutory duties and the staff she needs to conduct the business of the office. She also is asking for access to all documents to which she is entitled as auditor. She also wants the Tazewell County Treasurer to hand over documents related to her statutory protected duties.
The statutory responsibilities removed from Hranka, according to her, are purchase orders, accounts payable, inventory and the general ledger.
Zimmerman said Monday that Grasoff took on duties outside of the statutory requirements while she was in office, and when she opted not to run for office again, the Human Resources Committee went through the office duties line by line and removed the non-statutory work, which included the budget. That’s why the two employees were removed and the budget for the auditor’s office was cut by $93,000, he said.