County Treasurer: Candidates' debate focuses on best ways to invest cash
By ROY REYNOLDS
COUNTY GOVERNMENT REPORTER
The best ways to invest the county’s cash are the focus of debate in the race for Washtenaw County treasurer.
Incumbent Michael A. Stimpson, a Republican seeking a second four-year term is being challenged by Kenneth T. Latta, a Democrat and former Ann Arbor City Council member.
In his campaign. Stimpson points to a record that's an improvement over his Democratic predecessor.
Democrat Hillary Goddard, who resigned early in 1980, “earned about $600,000 in interest in his best year,” says the 36-year-old Stimpson. “He had about $12 million sitting in bank accounts, uninvested. Now it’s roughly $200,000 at any time.”
Stimpson says the county’s interest now runs about $1.5 million a year for investments from the general operating fund that he’s responsible for managing.
“The secret to investing is to keep the money low and be able to project cash flow needs. I make those projections. If someone gets in here who doesn’t know what he’s doing, it would be disastrous for the county. My opponent is intelligent and articulate. He doesn’t have the financial background, and will have to hire people who do, if he is elected.”
But Latta, an administrative associate at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, suggests Stimpson is the one who is unqualified for the job.
An internal audit in 1983, prepared by a consulting certified public accountant, criticized Stimpson for “lack of written procedures, cross training of staff and other internal control problems concerning handling of cash,” says Latta. “That’s professional standards? There are no backups in the office. Where is the repository of knowledge?” A follow-up to the 1983 audit indicates no procedural manual has yet been drafted, Latta notes.
Latta, 32, is a member of the Ann Arbor City Council’s Investment Committee, which oversees the city treasurer’s fund-management. He contends that the city treasurer publishes more detailed reports on investments, and invests more profitably, than does Stimpson.
The two men also sharply disagree over the use of computers.
Latta says a computerized general cash program, providing detailed frequent reports on status of investments and bills, was introduced in the Treasurer’s office last year strictly because of initiative by the Board of Commissioners and the county’s central staff.
But Stimpson has claimed credit for that system in his campaign leaflets. Actually, Stimpson favored a similar system during his first election campaign. He hoped to computerize his office with the Chicago-based Money Max system. “Kent County (Grand Rapids) has this,” says Stimpson. “It does basically what the our cash management computer program does, but also taps into daily updates on money markets, and allows more pooling of county funds.”
Stimpson is one of six county treasurers on ah advisory committee recently formed by the County Treasurers Association to set statewide guidelines for county government. “The president of the association is a Democrat - Marvin Hare of Saginaw County. He asked me to be on that committee because I know what I’m doing. He also asked me to teach a class in December to newly elected county treasurers.”
Stimpson, who lives in Freedom Township, has a bachelor of arts degree from Eastern Michigan University, where he took mostly business courses. He has worked for the county since 1973, first as grants accountant, next as a budget analyst, and then as senior budget analyst until his appointment as treasurer following Goddard’s resignation.
Latta holds a bachelor of science degree from Illinois Technical Institute and is completing work on a doctorate in political science at the U-M.
Arguments over cash flow policies and professional standards of the office