CHESTER - Marcellus shale, taxes and ethics were among the hot topics as county commissioners from throughout the state gathered at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort on Tuesday for the 2012 State Auditor's Annual Training Convention.
State Auditor Glen Gainer said representatives from nearly every county belonging to the West Virginia Commissioners Association traveled to the Northern Panhandle this week to attend state required training. He said his office is in charge of providing training and oversight to elected officials, including county and municipal officials, each year.
Gainer said the West Virginia Ethics Commission hosts one of the regular seminars taking place during the event. He said topics that are discussed include any changes to the open meeting laws, noting it is important to make sure all elected officials are familiar with the process, up to date with any changes and reminded of what can and cannot be done according to law.
DISCUSSING POSSIBILITIES — State Auditor Glen Gainer, left, discussed several items of business, including the P-Card Program which offers a credit card-like alternate payment method for elected officials, with Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis, right, during the 2012 State Auditor’s Annual Training for County Commissioners and Assistants Convention hosted at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort on Tuesday. -- Angelina Dickson
"We also try to get the commissioners together to discuss best practices so they can be adopted to make any improvements needed in the county," said Gainer.
State law, Gainer said, requires him to provide the training and mandates that officials attend. He said in his more than 20 years of experience as the state auditor, education and training works to make government better by introducing a variety of information needed to help commissioners make the right decisions.
"County and municipal training and education is the foundation of good government," he added.
Another seminar important to the county officials, according to Gainer, comes from the Internal Revenue Service. He said changes have been made regularly and counties need to know when to tax fringe benefits or other items.
The newest information being introduced this year pertains to the Marcellus shale drilling - something Gainer said is a hot topic. He said there are new regulations instituted by state law but in some counties where there is a large amount of drilling activity, officials are wanting to adopt local ordinances to protect themselves.
"The new law outlines the regulations and the information provided at this convention helps county commissioners better understand the protection of the laws already in place," he said. "It will help each county determine if they need to do anything additional or not."
In addition to providing training for commissioners, in the course of the weeks to come educational training seminars will be held for sheriffs as well as workshop meetings for municipalities in six districts. He said the auditor's office works to find any audit issues among counties and cities to see if there is a state-wide issue that needs to be addressed.
"We aren't quite where we want to be, but we're moving in the right direction," said Gainer.
Several businesses from throughout the state were invited to set up booths to offer additional information for officials to consider including communication, insurance and engineering firms.
Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis said this was the first time he'd attended a West Virginia Commissioner's Association training event. He said there was a wealth of information to absorb and he enjoyed himself.
"There is a lot of good information here that we're hoping to take back to Brooke County," Ennis said. "Hopefully it will help us operate the county the way we need to."
The Auditor's Office also spent time promoting the P-Card program - the Local Government Purchasing Card Program bringing all local government entities into a single purchasing card program to allow the highest possible rebate back to the local governments.
Catherine Fazzini, supervisor in the West Virginia Auditor's Office for the program, said the program is a Visa Card program that works like a credit card as an efficient method for streamlining the payment process.
"The Purchasing Card Program reduces the volume of accounts payable transactions and the associated administrative costs by eliminating vendor invoices and consolidating multiple vendor payments into one monthly payment to the charge card vendor," Fazzini said, "and suppliers are paid directly by the card issuer within three business days."
Fazzini said the purchasing card offers many benefits such as increased accountability for purchases, improved reporting of purchasing activity and fraud prevention. She said the purchasing card allows the State Auditor's Office to know almost immediately when potential fraud has occurred and sends notification if abnormal purchases have taken place.
For more information visit www.wvsao.gov.
(Dickson can be contacted at email@example.com)