Comparing candidates for Salt Lake County auditor can be hard. Qualifications in the auditing profession can be an alphabet soup that doesn’t mean much to the average citizen: CIA, CPGM, CPFA and on and on.
Though those “letters” do matter, the most important qualifications are intangibles like persistence, attention to detail and proactivity. Here are three stories that show how I would bring these qualities to the Salt Lake County Auditor’s Office.
Finding the $12 million error
After starting my career with nine years of public service in Salt Lake County, I transitioned to the private sector. An accounting manager I had previously worked with called. He sounded desperate: “Dave, I need you to fix our financials.”
He had been struggling with a reporting error of $12 million in the financial report of a national retailer. This error was overlooked by the independent certified public accountants hired to audit the annual financials the year before. With no idea where the error had been introduced, he hired me because he knew that I had the persistence to dig into the data and find the problem.
Back in the ’90s, computers were clunky and it was a daunting task to manipulate a search through a large amount of information. Often my computer would run all night processing a command. I lost a lot of sleep, but with a couple months of constant work, I found and fixed the $12 million error to the penny.
Shortly thereafter, the chief financial officer of the company promoted me to chief internal auditor reporting to the board of directors. As I began working to audit stores and franchisees, I continued to use my persistence to ferret out fraud when things didn’t add up. When I’m elected, I will bring that same persistence to monitoring your tax dollars.
$40 million saved on fire service
Though I enjoyed the private sector, when Cottonwood Heights incorporated, I was excited to again pursue public service by setting up the new city’s financial systems.
As the city started, we wondered if property owners should pay property taxes to the newly created Unified Fire Authority district or if the city should withdraw from the district and contract for fire services like other surrounding cities had been doing for years. As we prepared the first budget, I got into the details, analyzed the costs and found that withdrawing from the new fire authority district would save property owners $1.6 million annually in property taxes.
Cottonwood Heights’ residents have saved millions in property tax dollars annually because of my analysis. In fact, over the past 16 years, that one decision has saved over $40 million!
That’s where being detail-oriented benefits the public. I have the drive and experience to find the facts and follow the numbers all the way to the end. My dedication to detail is what makes me the best choice for Salt Lake County auditor.
ZIP+4 database and the pandemic
In 2007, the state tax commission was preparing a “ZIP+4” jurisdictional database to aid in distribution of sales taxes to local entities. I requested a chance to check over the data for the newly formed city of Cottonwood Heights to ensure it was correct. While analyzing the database of ZIP+4 ZIP codes, it became readily apparent that the assigned jurisdictions in the data was 98% wrong throughout the entire state.
The 550,000 “ZIP+4” entries were more lines than Excel could support at the time. It was a big job and not necessarily my responsibility, but I was determined to get to the bottom of the problem because accuracy of this data would be critical for all cities and counties in Utah.
The results of my findings led the state tax commission to correct the database so all sales taxes, especially online sales, could be distributed correctly, benefitting all entities in the state of Utah. This correction was critical in helping sales taxes be reported correctly when the pandemic closed down many in-person businesses.
A good auditor is proactive — fixing errors before they cause trouble. My proactivity makes me the kind of auditor Salt Lake County needs. A vote for me will bring my extensive experience, proactivity, attention to detail and persistence to work for you.
David M. Muir is a 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, with short absences for overseas service and college attendance.