Controversial County Financial Access Resolution Fails To Pass
March 2, 2023
Jessica Mathews / firstname.lastname@example.org
A push to provide Commissioners full access to Livingston County’s financial records has been halted.
The board met Monday evening and voted down a controversial resolution that would have done so.
The County uses MUNIS, an Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP software package to help manage its budget, which also archives financial records going back more than 10 years. The resolution stated “while many Livingston County staff have been provided with full access to all financial information stored in the ERP software, Commissioners have not been provided with this same level of access”. Commissioner Jay Gross noted that statement was misleading in that only ten people have full access, not “many”.
Commissioners currently have read-only access, and the resolution contained “full access” language.
The resolution authored by Commissioner Wes Nakagiri asserted that the access would enable commissioners to conduct their own independent financial analyses and optimize financial transparency and fiscal oversight.
The term “full access” was defined as providing each Commissioner with a login ID and password, enabling each Commissioner, from their county-issued laptop computer, read-only access to all financial records stored in the ERP software.
The resolution stated “in the event ERP information is disclosed which is legally protected confidential, private and/or privileged from disclosure, individual commissioners shall adhere to all laws and County policies regarding the prohibitions, limits and/or means of disclosure of such legally protected confidential, private, or privileged information”.
It was stated that some have expressed strong feelings and reservations about the resolution, including the court system. Language was later added to clarify that the resolution did not apply to any of the court’s financial records.
Treasurer Jennifer Nash fielded questions from the board and stated her role when it comes to the financials is to ensure they are accurate and timely, and the system is of integrity. She noted various risks with data security, noting one if the best ways to mitigate risk through an ERP system is through access control. She said the system is very broad and there are severe consequences if it’s compromised and it’s the basis of which the County makes all financial decisions.
Nash noted that if anyone wanted or needed information, they have always been able to satisfy requests from commissioners. She said no commissioner would ever be denied access to information and they can always reach out of financial officials, department heads, and elected officials – and different authorization levels are designed to limit risk to the County’s software.
Commissioners currently have individual log-in access and can see every account and transaction in the general ledger, and also run reports and queries. In the accounts payable module, Nash stated commissioners already have full access. She noted that the resolution sought to give that same full level of access across all other transactions in the system - which can and often times contain sensitive data.
For the County’s financial software, she said they don’t give access beyond what’s needed on a day-to-day basis.
Nash stated she reached out to other county treasurers across the state and received 43 responses back. Of those, she stated all indicated their boards do not have log-in access to general ledger software.
Nash added that “this level of access is very, very unheard of” and it’s not something she would expect commissioners to use on a day-to-day basis. Over her 28 years with the County, Nash asserted they have aways been able to satisfy commissioners requests, and can provide whatever is needed in a different fashion versus log-in access to the software.
Nakagiri stated that he sought the change as there were some elements in the general ledger he was not authorized to click on and see everything. He commented that the system is the basis of which they make all finance decisions and commissioners have a responsibility and accountability to voters to see everything that’s going on.
Commissioner Martin Smith stated that he had no interest in approving the resolution, saying “this is bad governance period”. He commented they already have access to the general ledger and accounts payable and questioned why they would be doing anything more – adding he had yet to hear any real reason as to why. Smith stated that if something is restricted, they can always contact the appropriate county officials.
Commissioner Gross also felt there are other options available to secure detailed information on anything included in the financial systems without opening up the whole general ledger.
Commissioners in support of the failed resolution included Nakagiri, Vice Chair Jay Drick, Roger Deaton, and Nick Fiani.
A copy of the resolution is attached.