David Muir: Less politics, more results in the Salt Lake County Auditor’s Office

The major responsibility of the Salt Lake County Auditor’s Office is to process and verify property tax administration throughout Salt Lake County. This tax administration affects all taxing entities providing services within the county, from sewer districts to school districts and all others.

My 17 years of experience in municipal accounting management includes working with both county and state property tax system data. This extensive experience in detailed property tax analysis, administration and understanding is the most recently relevant and direct experience for being the county auditor.

Just this summer, I was asked to verify comparable city property tax rates published by a city this year. In this and a similar previous process, I found local property tax districts in Salt Lake County that are wrongly imposing taxes on property owners not in their boundaries. Additionally, I have found (and verified) there are properties that are receiving services yet are not currently being included in the district’s tax boundaries. Correcting these inequities will be a high priority to assure property taxes are administered fairly and accurately when I am elected.

Recent comments implied that the auditor’s office has not been auditing to recommended government standards. The auditing standards mentioned, including the federal auditing standards issued by the GAO (built upon GAGAS), also known as the “Yellow Book,” is a great framework for auditing.

Yet contrary to what was said, the 2021 outline of services of the Audit Services Division of the Salt Lake County Auditor’s office states clearly that audits are to be conducted using GAGAS. I understand that new management strives to make improvements within their own leadership but throwing past audits “under the bus” so to say, is uncalled for.

While the auditor’s office should continue to improve standards for internal audits, I believe that the major focus in audit improvement should be on internal audit quality, which is measured by completely different standards. As presented in the “Yellow Book”, (Para 1.22) performance audit objectives vary widely and include assessments of effectiveness, economy and efficiency; internal control; compliance; and prospective analysis. These types of results from performance auditing are important for the transparency and accountability that should be given to all County agencies.

I have always sought to obtain professional certifications relevant to my work in government, including CIA, CGFM, CPFA and CPFIM. I will support all employees, including in the Audit Services Division, in continued professional development and support individual efforts to obtain related certification from professional organizations.

State law currently restricts the Salt Lake County Auditor’s Office (and no other county in Utah) from initiating performance audits. I agree that this misguided law should be repealed, and the independence of the county auditor restored.

One of the main reasons this legislation was enacted in 2012 was concern over overreaching partisan audits by the then elected auditor. These major conflicts also resulted in the county’s financial functions being removed from the auditor’s office and transferred to the mayor’s office. Past efforts to work with the legislature to restore the auditor’s ability to initiate performance audits have not been successful. I believe that an auditor who is independent of the major political parties will reduce the partisan tension and help legislators understand why performance auditing needs to be part of the auditor’s responsibilities.

I am the candidate best prepared and committed in many ways to resolve these many issues and continue to lead the auditor’s office to the benefit of Salt Lake County citizens.

David M. Muir

David M. Muir is the United Utah Party candidate for Salt Lake County Auditor and has worked in local government finance for over 26 years. He has lived and worked in Salt Lake County his entire life.