UNION TOWNSHIP Questions arise over hiring of accountants

One supervisor wants to know why township supervisors are being replaced.
UNION -- Action on a routine matter escalated into a long debate, tinged with political overtones, involving Supervisor Steve Galizia, his colleagues and a township auditor.
Supervisors Ralph Nuzzo and Kevin Guinaugh passed a motion Thursday prepared by Solicitor Donald Nicolls to appoint a firm of certified public accountants to replace the elected township auditors to make an examination of all the township accounts for fiscal year 2001.
The action is not unusual. An accounting firm has audited the township books for years as the township has grown and the budget has become too complicated for township auditors.
Galizia, however, voted against it, asking why Nicolls was even contacted by his colleagues about a formerly routine resolution and why the resolution now mentions "replacing" the auditors, which it did not in the past.
Nuzzo and Guinaugh replied that Nicolls prepared the wording of the resolution, which closely follows a state law that says accountants can be hired "to replace the elected auditors."
The law goes on to say that when an accountant is appointed, the auditors "shall not audit, settle or adjust the accounts audited by the appointee but shall perform the other duties of the office."
Reply: Sally Byler, an auditor and former supervisor who attended the supervisors meeting, confirmed that auditors have given over the auditing job to professionals for years. She said the township auditors' job now consists only of setting the roadmaster's pay rate and the secretary's bond at the beginning of the year.
Galizia questioned whether the resolution's mention of replacing auditors will prevent them from inspecting township financial records if they have questions.
Byler said anyone can ask to see township financial records as long as they give enough notice. She added that if anything is wrong with the township books, professionals should be able to catch it.
Mrs. Byler asked Galizia why he didn't object to hiring accountants last year.
She added, "Your problem is you got friends elected auditors and you want them to audit the books."
She referred to the fact that two of Galizia's political allies, Randy Conti and Rich Paolini, won auditor's seats on write-in votes this month after no one filed for the posts. They take office in January.
Byler and Carlyle Janiel's terms expire at the end of the year. An additional post is vacant because of the death of the elected auditor and the resignation of her replacement.
Debate: Galizia pointed out the law states the township must have auditors, and added, "They should be able to examine and request anything they want and make corrections."
Byler replied that auditors have limited powers and can't make corrections on township books. She said they can only take their questions to the supervisors.
Nuzzo and Guinaugh did not explain why the township solicitor was consulted this year on the previously routine matter.
Galizia said a petition he filed with Lawrence County Common Pleas Court seeking to block the resolution was turned down by Judge Craig Cox because no action had been taken. He promised to file another petition.

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