The outside auditor’s management report for Cass County was released earlier this week. An earlier report by the County Auditor on the County Collector’s office had been blocked from being released on the county website. When the outside audit was delivered, the county Powers-That-Be relented and allowed both reports to be posted on the Auditor’s section of the county website.
There has been a firestorm about these reports since their release. There has been accusations and counter-accusations on local Facebook groups and other internet forums. If you read the management report closely, you’ll see why a commissioner abruptly resigned last year and why another chose to not run for re-election. The outside auditor is particularly damning on the actions and methods of the county commission and vindicates the county auditor.
But that is not the theme for today’s post. We should use these auditor reports to develop county Policies and Procedures to insure future occurrences do not occur. In the business world, this is known as “Lessons Learned.” That is why we have auditors and auditor reports.
I would suggest that at the top of those lessons learned is this:
- Never compete with business. Especially, never compete with business when business has a proven track record, established customer base and existing infrastructure to support the product. In this case, the Broadband project should have been shown the door at its first appearance. There is no way the county can compete with AT&T, Embarq, Sprint, CenTel, Comcast or Time-Warner in providing broadband internet access and provide a competing product at a competitive cost. The rural customers that were to be served by the Broadband project don’t have the customer density to support Broadband at a reasonable cost. That means municipal customers would subsidize the rural customers. The county’s competing product would have to do so at a price that is equivalent or lower than broadband service by AT&T, Sprint and others. Any competent business manager or certified project manager would have seen these pitfalls and would not have approved the broadband project. In business, this comes under Risk Identification, Mitigation and Avoidance—all part of a needed business plan that didn’t exist.
- Never subsidize new technologies or pilot plants without a proven vendor track record, customer base and established maintenance and support. In short, never be the first kid on the block with new technology until it has been proven. In this case, the county subsidized the production of a pilot bio-fuels plant with the University of Central Missouri with no scope of work, project plan nor established schedule of deliverables, i.e., it was money thrown down a hole with no obligation of any return on investment.
The Commissioners violated other those and other common business rules and we now see the result. I don’t know the background of the two appointed democrat commissioners, Luke Scavuzzo and Terry Wilson. I would hope when they were selected to fill the vacant commissioner positions by Governor Jay Nixon, that he picked people with proven and successful business backgrounds for surely as God created little green apples, Cass County needs competent commissioners. We’ve not have any, as far as I can determine, for decades.