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Referendum to eliminate Peoria County Auditor's Office may reappear on November ballot

Jessica Thomas.jpg
Tim Shelley
/
WCBU
Peoria County Auditor Jessica Thomas at an October 2021 Peoria County Board meeting.

Peoria County voters are likely to see an option to eliminate the county auditor's office on the November 2022 ballot.

At Tuesday's executive committee meeting, members voted to move along a resolution to the Peoria County Board that would add the referendum to the fall election ballot.

The referendum petition states it would save taxpayers $150,000 a year. Board vice chair Jim Fennell said the auditor's duties are covered by other county offices, automated programs, and a required annual external audit.

"2021 was the last time we received a report from the auditor's office," he said. "And I, in the finance committee, asked the finance department if they could not replicate that same report because it was basically a report from our checking account of the highest paid vendor, collective of all the bills that we paid for the month, down to the lowest."

Fennell said the finance department has been generating similar reports since it stopped receiving them from the auditor's office. He also referenced the high marks the county has received on external audits.

"As long as I can remember, we've received the highest quality rating possible for our external audit," added county administrator Scott Sorrel.

In a statement, Peoria County Auditor Jessica Thomas claimed eliminating her office would lead to "unchecked waste, fraud and egregious misappropriation."

The executive committee's vote was not unanimous.

“I won't be supporting this at this time," said committee member Rob Reneau. "I feel that the public did vote on this four years ago and since the auditor still has two years left of the term, I just don't feel like this is the right time to put this on the referendum."

A similar referendum failed in 2018 by 19 votes.

Currently, Thomas is involved in an ongoing lawsuit against several county government and elected officials, following an October 2021 motion that cut her office budget. She was the only employee left in the office in 2022.

The referendum resolution will likely be discussed at the next county board meeting on Aug. 11.

Editor's Note: Jessica Thomas is a member of the WCBU Community Advisory Board.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.