Ohio county fairs are going to be audited by the Auditor of State's office, breaking a 12 year practice of relying on the Ohio Department of Agriculture to oversee the financial operations of the fairs.
Whatever the reason may have been for former auditor Thomas E. Ferguson to shift the auditing duties from his office to another state agency, the switch back makes sense.
Audits ought to be done by the state auditor's office. It's that simple.
It's not that we don't trust county fair boards. In Mahoning County, the Canfield Fair would not have enjoyed 155 successful exhibitions were it not for hundreds of dedicated fair board members and thousands of other volunteers who have been willing to give generously of their time and talents. They're in the business of giving, not taking.
But fair boards aren't private entities, and they're involved in contracts with clearly public entities, such as county boards of commissioners. That makes proper oversight a necessity.
The decision by Auditor Jim Petro to reassert his office's direct control over fair board audits stemmed from an audit of the Delaware County Fair that Petro's office made public last week. The Agriculture Department asked Petro's office for aid.
Recommendations: While the report found no wrong-doing or missing funds, it did recommend improvements to the fair's accounting procedures.
The one person assigned to audit fairs by the Agriculture Department could not possibly keep a close enough eye on the operation of nearly 100 fairs throughout the state.
Petro's office can. A spokesman said the county fairs will be assimilated into the workload of the auditor's regional offices throughout the state.
Over the next two years, every fair in the state will undergo a state audit. If some are not keeping the books according to accepted and standard auditing practices, the state auditor's office will tell them so and will tell them what they have to do to come into compliance.
The auditor's office will be lifting a burden from the Agriculture Department and from those fair boards whose accounting methods may have fallen behind the times. Everyone will be able to rest easier.