November 2, 2011 —
The heat is being turned up in the race between challenger Democrat Pam Lutfy and the two incumbent commissioners Republican Rich Caridi and Democrat Karl Wagner.
Lutfy, who gained a place on the ballot through write-in votes, in two ads in The River Reporter and the Pike County Dispatch lists four examples of what she implies as poor management. “You do the math,” she said, after listing examples of over-budgeting and over spending.
The over-budgeting occurred, she said, in “planning initiatives” and “salaries for the election office.” The over spending occurred in budgeting “professional services” and “recycling.”
Lutfy cited three independent audits by Zelenkofske Axelrod, LLC for 2007, 2008 and 2009 that found “various county transactions went unreported.” Quoting the audit further it says, “The county did not have procedures in place to ensure initial eligibility forms were properly completed.”
Finally, she quotes the conclusion of the audit. “There were ‘significant deficiencies’ and ‘material weaknesses’ with internal controls and reporting.”
“Anyone can employ misleading statistics to deceive an audience,” Caridi said in response. “Pike County’s budget is balanced and has not had a tax increase for the last three years.”
Caridi cited the fact that Standard and Poor increased Pike County’s bond rating from “A” to “A+” and he quoted Raymond Lowery, an advisor with PNC Capital Markets, when he said, “Pike County will be debt free in 11 years.”
Wagner, calling her attacks a “non-issue,” took each of the four criticisms and showed that he and Caridi were not remiss in management.
“The 2010 Pike County budget… contained what the commissioners estimated would be monies spent and monies received during the calendar year 2010. It was, and could only be, an estimate,” Wagner said.
Wagner added that in the midst of an economic decline the commissioners finished the calendar year 2010 with a $1.6 million surplus, which was carried over and used in calendar year 2011.