It's been 25 years since Sutter County has employed an internal auditor, and in that time, the county has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in embezzlements, mistakes and oversights the employee could have prevented, according to proponents of re-staffing the position.

Auditor-Controller Nate Black asked the Board of Supervisors to fund the position at last month's budget hearings, but supervisors rejected the request, citing a lack of funds.

The position was one of five the board did not fund. The others included two sheriff's deputies, a human resources manager and a information technology security administrator.

The internal auditor position would monitor and control the county's inner-workings, and in doing so, would likely expose a slew of inefficiencies and save the county from costly scandals that have plagued it in the past, Black said.

"It's been years and years that (an internal auditor) hasn't been there, and there have been years and years of problems," Black said. "An internal auditor doesn't cost, it pays."

Board Chairman Ron Sullenger said the position is necessary.

"Sutter County in the past several years has had an inordinate amount of impropriety and alleged corruption, and most of then have had to do with money," Sullenger said. "The internal auditor would help eliminate some of those problems. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and in Sutter County lately, there's been a lot of smoke."

The board gave direction to county staff to try to find revenue to fund all the requested positions, said Supervisor Jim Whiteaker.

"I want to continue to be fiscally conservative with our tax dollars," Whiteaker said. "This year, we had a budget that was fiscally conservative, so we want to continue to ensure that we have money allocated to pay for positions warranted throughout the county."

Whiteaker said he would prioritize the hiring of additional sheriff's deputies before an internal auditor. Black said he agreed.

"Focus on the sheriff first, and if there's something left over, I'd love to be at the table," Black said.

The county's revenue streams are improving, but not at the level that would enable the county to fund new positions, said Shawne Corley, assistant county administrator.

"(Revenues) are not recovering the way that everyone had hoped it would," Corley said. "For now, it doesn't look like those positions will be added to the budget, although I can't say that with certainty."

County staff will bring the final budget back to the board slightly later than normal to wait and see if revenues improve or new funding streams become available, Corley said. The board will likely consider the final budget in late August or early September.

The internal auditor is estimated to cost about $125,000, but that could increase if the position requires the employee to be a certified public accountant.

Each sheriff's deputy is estimated to cost $80,000. The human resources manager would cost $135,000, and the IT security administrator would cost $110,000.

CONTACT reporter Andrew Creasey at 749-4780 and on Twitter @AD_Creasey.

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