Campaigns/Elections

This Libertarian Won His Local Election, but the Politicians He'd Audit Refuse To Seat Him

A Pennsylvania township's board of supervisors is refusing to seat elected auditors.

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Kevin Gaughen is a real estate broker and the executive director of the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party. He has lived in Silver Spring Township, near the state capital of Harrisburg, for 10 years and has concerns about how his town's finances have been managed.

In 2021, Gaughen decided to run for township auditor as a write-in candidate. On Election Day, he mobilized friends to hand out cards to potential voters that read, "Write In Kevin Gaughen for Auditor." Improbably, he won. Now, however, Silver Spring Township's manager won't let him do his job.

On January 3, Gaughen showed up to the year's first meeting of the board of supervisors, a five-person board that "govern[s] and supervise[s]" the township. To his surprise, his swearing-in was not on the agenda. According to Gaughen's account, when he raised the issue during the public comment section, the board insisted that it had been an oversight and that he would be sworn in at the next meeting. But days later, the township manager, Raymond Palmer, sent an email stating that, in fact, the township had retained an accounting firm, Maher Duessel, to serve as auditors and that "the elected auditor has duties lifted when a Township appoints an auditing firm." (Palmer did not respond to an email or text messages requesting comment).

It is within a township's authority to appoint an accounting firm to serve the audit function. Silver Spring Township appears to have retained Maher Duessel since at least 2010. (A representative for Maher Duessel did not respond to emails or a voicemail requesting comment.)

Simply hiring an accountant for the audits is not, in itself, suspicious, says Jennifer Moore, chair of the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party, who also serves as an auditor in the township where she lives. Her local board contracts with an accountant, which she feels is necessary for larger townships with bigger budgets. But, as she tells Reason, "we do still definitely have a role: We're elected by the people to make sure that everything's on the up-and-up." In Moore's case, the firm compiles the audit, and then the board of elected auditors pores through the report for anything that may require further scrutiny.

A Pennsylvania township auditor is not a particularly prestigious or powerful position. Salaries are capped at $2,000 annually—half that for smaller municipalities. Auditors scrutinize their township's finances and deliver an annual report to the state capital. They also set the salaries for the board of supervisors. Each township has three auditors, who serve staggered six-year terms.

In addition to setting supervisor salaries and financial auditing and reporting, township auditors may investigate "official records of the district justices," similar to small claims courts, "to determine the amount of fines and costs paid over or due the township." If a township is writing too many tickets or assessing an inordinate amount of fines, the board of auditors would have the authority to investigate. The board of auditors also has the power to issue subpoenas to investigate members of the board of supervisors and to assess fines to any supervisor who misuses taxpayer funds. An accounting firm would be unable to serve these functions.

"I see them putting projects out, and I don't believe they're doing fair bidding on them," Gaughen told Reason. "I see them handing deals out" without putting it through a "fair bidding process… There's a lot of items of concern that I see in this township, and I thought, 'I want to get involved, I want to open the books, I want to start attending these township meetings, and I want to know exactly what's going on here.'"

It is not clear whether the board of supervisors is even allowed to rely solely on an accounting firm for audits. "They just simply can't do that, under election law," says Moore, who also has an MBA. "It's a violation of the election code. The election code says that they may hire a CPA, but they still have to have a board of auditors." Indeed, state law stipulates that if an accountant or firm is appointed, "the board of auditors shall not audit, settle or adjust the accounts audited by the appointee but shall perform the other duties of the office." (A representative from the Governor's Center for Local Government Services, which oversees the township audit reports, did not respond to voicemails requesting comment.)

In trying to determine what his next steps were, Gaughen sought out the previous office winner. Chris Trafton ran as a Republican in 2019, though he self-identifies as an independent. In an interview with Reason, Trafton described an experience very similar to Gaughen's: Tired of seeing "shenanigans" in local governance, Trafton gravitated toward the township auditor role and mounted a successful write-in campaign based on word-of-mouth. When he showed up to be certified in his new role, town officials seemed surprised to see him. He was informed that "we've been intending to close down those [positions] in the election" anyway, since with a third-party auditing company, "there's no point in having auditors at all."

Trafton also shared with Reason a copy of an email from the township manager at the time, Theresa Eberly. Eberly's email used nearly identical language as Palmer's email to Gaughen, stating that "the elected auditor has duties lifted when a township appoints an auditing firm." (Eberly, who has since moved to a position in a different town, did not respond to emailed questions).

Currently, on the Cumberland County website, Silver Spring Township lists three auditors. Two, Gaughen and Trafton, have yet to be seated; the third, Kathleen Albright, has apparently moved out of the township and has not been replaced. (Albright responded to a text message, but has so far declined to participate in an interview for this article.)

It is entirely possible that the Silver Spring Township board of supervisors is operating in good faith, but by refusing to seat an auditor and instead relying solely on its own hand-picked replacement, the board is not only violating state law, but also defying the most basic principles of good governance. In Gaughen's words, the auditor is "a watchdog for the citizens," put in place to "make sure that economic malfeasance isn't going on. And I don't think that someone hired, who has a financial interest from the township, should be auditing the people that hired them."

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  1. As we learned in 2016, winning an election doesn't mean anyone in the government will work with you, and won't try every trick in the book, legal and illegal to stymie you.

    1. True. But it is also true that there is no position so insignificant that Joe Lancaster can't find a reason to write a 1000 word essay on how mean they were to a Libertarian. This is ground-breaking shit right here.

      Tip line for Joe: I hear there's quite a quite a fracas going on in Bandana KY [pop 203] over the newly elected assistant to the Assistant Jailer position who is a Libertarian. Eddie was elected fair and square, but Buford refuses to hand over the keys to the cell cuz of some old brouhaha the two had over Eileen back in the day. Also cuz Buford is damn sure that Eddie won't lock up drunk Kermit on Fridays when everyone knows K-dawg killed off Miss Estelle's bush by peeing on it. Hazelene even seen him do it.

      1. It’s a pattern of local government refusing to accept oversight.

        It’s all the more remarkable that these are ELECTED positions.

        No mention of who the other candidates were. If any.

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    3. Reason has spent 5 years supporting and aiding this shit.

  2. Since election fraud doesn’t happen, why have auditors?

    1. Or elections?

      1. Indeed.

      2. The board was meaning to remove that office from the ballot, so go home.

      3. We all know that only the Democrats truly represent the majority! Just like the Communist Party in socialist countries! Any vote for another party is obviously either fraudulent or cast by someone who is mentally ill!

        /sarc

  3. You can’t fight city hall. Apparently nor can you audit them.

    1. City hall knows karate

      1. I understand "karate" translates literally to "empty hand". The only time city hall's hands are empty is when they are diving back into our pockets.

    2. Hey, at least the board is worried about saving 1,000 dollars....

  4. O/T - Congratulations to Libertarian commenter/firebrand/maniac Karlyn Borysenko, who the LP nominated for New Hampshire governor, apparently against her intentions.

    1. Does she wear a boot on her head?

      1. See? Two no-borders anarchist communist infiltrators in the LP and God's Own Poopers have the stereotype of a libertarian they always wanted as adversary. "What'll it be, folks, God-fearing Positive Christian altruism or gutter bums who want to legalize murder and looting?" Communists and fascists alike want voters to associate Sante Geronimo Caserio knifing French President Sadi Carnot or Luigi Lucheni repeatedly stabbing Austria's empress--to Mark Twain's horror and disgust--with the LP. Before 1972, all anarchists were violent communists, in all newspapers, in all languages.

      2. He can go to the local magistrate or other judge and get sworn in. Under the Second Class Township Code he does retain duties other than the actual auditing of the accounts of the Township. The Township government cannot by any act of law eliminate the positions or other Board responsibilities which could include submitting to the Board and the people a review of the professional audit and they could subpoena public records and include that in their review. The power to set salaries is most likely moot because in most larger townships the elected Supervisors do not also hold employee positions. As a former policy specialist for the Governor's Center I am disappointed but not surprised by their lack of response. The last several administration's have filled it with a bunch of political hacks.

    2. She is unstable

  5. "It is entirely possible that the Silver Springs Township board of supervisors is operating in good faith..."

    In much the same way that it's entirely possible to win every state lottery.

    1. Brazilian congressman Fernando Lúcio Giacobo explained his sudden wealth by claiming to have won the lottery 12 times in a single year. Even then, 144,000 suckers voted for him in Nixon-style subsidized elections with no Libertarians allowed. Everyone is required by law to cast a vote.

  6. To his surprise, his swearing-in was not on the agenda.

    Well it was obviously on somebody's agenda.

  7. "They also set the salaries for the board of supervisors. "

    So all he has to do is set that salary to zero until he is sworn in.

    1. He can't do anything until sworn in. He needs to sue the board.

  8. Hmm. Does he officially have the power to bring down the audit hammer regardless? I'm thinking 5 people on the board should get thoroughly investigated.

    1. The point of the article is that he has no power, because power without anyone to back you up is piss on toilet paper.

      1. Does the township have a sheriff? The law seems pretty clear, and easy to enforce.

        1. The Township Police are run by the Board of Commissioners that did not swear him in ???? so that is not going to happen. I live in the next Township over and went to school with Kevin. Silver Spring Township is growing extremely fast and I am sure there is a river of money flowing from residentual and commercial development.

      2. The article proves that force-initiating robbers and murderers will stop at nothing to preserve the looter kleptocracy. Yet Kevin and his LP voters won, and the Kleptocracy lost the only thing it values besides someone else's property: votes. By defrauding the election the looters displayed only fear and dishonesty, and proved that everything their candidates said about one another is true.

    2. I was elected as a township auditor in Penna. (twp. did have an outside auditor that did an annual audit by sampling transactions, etc. as independent auditors do). By law, I had the authority to examine - had I wished to, and had the time - literally every financial transaction the township did. I could have reviewed every expenditure to make sure it was properly authorized under the law. I couldn't, for example, tell them to spend funds on a bridge instead of the park but I could make sure the bids for the spending were done in accordance with law. It would have been a labor of love as the auditors weren't paid in our township, but a dedicated retired person could have really made a nuisance of him or herself.

      1. I was elected president of a town translators' association after the market crash. The looter soft machine repeatedly postponed my taking office and pulled every lever to install someone who wanted government bribes, licensing and price-fixing for court work. No matter how low the stakes, parasites do not turn loose until they have to. The knowledge that spoiler votes eventually change policy and laws makes campaigning less of a chore. Search "Libertarian Candidate Speech" for a generic LP vote-getter.

    3. No. The elected Board is replaced from auditing responsibilities by Township ordinance.

  9. Now, however, Silver Spring Township's manager won't let him do his job.

    Fuck you. That's who, what, where, when, why and now. Fuck you.

    1. What are you talking about? These things don’t happen. You said so yourself.

      1. Free and clearly not for you elections, man.

  10. This is the proper role of state government -- to ensure local governments are following the laws.

  11. He better be careful, city hall has the ability to severely fuck up your life between taxes, cops, and code enforcement.

    1. Ah! Spoken like a force-initiating Kleptocracy looter worried about libertarians infiltrating and whistleblowing the looting of other people's money. Argumentum ad baculum.

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  13. It would be interesting to see what services the township is paying their outside auditor to provide.

    There's a good chance the outside auditor is simply ensuring the Township's financial statements are more-or-less accurate. He's probably not being paid to comment on whether the township follows best practices, e.g. competitive bidding. He's just confirming they spent what they said they spent.

    1. Are you certain? It sure would be nice to have a publicly elected person not beholden to the council or their employed agents to check. I wonder who that could be?

  14. The voters won. Winning is causing the entrenched, tax-subsidized political parties to repeal the taxes and prohibitions they have been increasing all your life at the expense of your freedom to choose. Kevin's successful bid allowed voters to see the backstabbing treachery looters routinely stoop to to keep freedom and honesty out of government. By threatening the local Kleptocracy with oversight, they sent the rats scuttling to burn old evidence and cut back on current malfeasance. Spoiler votes change laws!

  15. Look, the foxes don't need no stinkin' auditors poking around the hen-house...

  16. Corruption is what you elect when you vote Republican.

  17. Fargin' Bastages! Two parties ain't no party at all...

  18. Why would anyone run for an office that pays 2k?

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