Walker Hails Office Modernization As Reason To Retain Him As Treasurer-Auditor

(April 22) Larry Walker, the incumbent county treasurer and tax collector, who is also the county’s auditor and controller, said he believes the county’s voters should return him to office because of his demonstrated ability in leading those departments and his record of accomplishment.
Walker, who was on the board of supervisors representing the county’s Fourth District from 1986 until 1998, ran for the position of auditor-controller-recorder in 1998. He was reelected to those consolidated posts in 2002, 2006 and 2010, at which point the elected position of county treasurer/tax collector had been folded into the function of the auditor controller’s office.  The position of county recorder, which Walker had previously held, was moved over to the county assessor’s office.
“I am running again because we have a great staff, 300 employees who are doing a great job,” Walker said. “They are supported by a great senior staff and together we are continuing to improve and evolve the organization and improve customer service. We are developing systems of accountability and improving the electronic  systems so we can provide better service and reduce costs. I am excited about and enjoy the things we are doing to make that service available to the public and I am now asking the voters to keep me in that position.”
As to his overall priorities in the next four years, Walker said, “There are challenges to each specific part of the office, but we are building on success. The treasurer’s office has been doing an award winning comprehensive annual report, which actually was being produced before I was in office. We are now attempting to build on that success and turn out a 16-page popular summary of that report to make the county’s financial information more accessible to the average person.“
Walker continued, “We have eliminated a lot of inefficiencies and have replaced parts of the system that have lived past their usefulness. We are trying to provide more timely financial information to the board to allow it to make better decisions as well as to make the public more aware. In terms of past accomplishments, I initiated the idea when I ran in 1998 to have a fraud abuse hotline. I put that in place about a year-and-a-half after I took office, giving an opportunity for any employee or member of the public to express concerns about possible taxpayer abuse. I have worked to give proper accounting of all of the county’s financial issues, from the very simple to the very complex.  I believe I have had a positive impact on building up the county’s internal audit function and we are constantly looking at priority areas in terms of potential risk in an effort to keep us on the straight and narrow. We have built a process where on an annual basis, we measure risks by looking at the financing and investment activities of the county and judge the inherent risks. Some activities carry with them an inherently higher risk and we prioritize so that when we are going to audit we make sure we are looking at the inherently high risk activities as much or more than the low risk activities. We have a prioritization in our audit plan.”
Walker said, “The overall theme of what we do is service to the county’s constituents. That is something we have worked hard  to build into every aspect of what we do, to make sure the taxpayers get the information they need, that we have processes they can use which are accessible and that we have policies in place that give  the same answer to taxpayers asking the same questions. We are constantly looking at ways across the board to enhance services and save money.  We are committed to making information system improvements that allow us to achieve savings and increase customer service.”
Walker is being opposed in this year’s election by Ensen Mason, a certified public accountant and former member of the Victor Valley Union High School District Board of Trustees, who has since moved to Redlands.  Walker rejected the rallying cry of Mason supporters who advocate infusing the four consolidated county posts with new blood.
“Any argument between “new blood” and experience should question whether the experience is continuing to move in a positive direction of accomplishment and is the “new blood” capable of understanding what the issues are,” Walker said. “In the 16 years I have been here I have worked hard and on a continuous basis to find ways to improve the system. I did not just rely on how well the system was working and that everything was ok. I have worked 16 years to push the system that was largely based on paper filings to one that is 97 percent electronic payments. I moved the recorder’s office when I had it, from one that was an entirely paper system to one that is a majority electronic system.”
Of Mason, Walker said, “I don’t know much about him. He appears to have spent a few bucks on a billboard in the Victor Valley. He was apparently elected to the Victor Valley High School Board in November 2010 but did not serve an entire term on that board.”
Walker sought to deflect criticism about his willingness to take on the treasurer and tax collector duties while simultaneously serving as auditor and controller, which some have suggested are incompatible assignments that allow Walker, as auditor controller, to serve in the capacity of providing key oversight of his function as treasurer.
“That issue was taken on not only by our county counsel but county counsels throughout the state and the state legislature,” Walker said. “My opponent may bring this up as an issue, but the criticism is simply wrong. Our county was not the first to combine the treasurer with the auditor controller. It is clearly allowable. People may question these policies for individual counties, but it is no different than combining the coroner’s office with the sheriff’s department. It is done increasingly in situations where you have a similarity of duties and a need to save money. The county saved a million dollars on an annual basis as a result of the consolidation. If my opponent wants to run on an issue from 2010 in 2014, on an arrangement that was put to rest four years ago, he has the option of running that kind of campaign.”
Walker, who was raised in Chino and attended Chino High School, obtained his bachelor’s degree in social science from UC Irvine and his law degree from UCLA Law School. He was admitted to the bar in 1976 and practiced law for ten years in the areas of real estate, contract litigation, and family law. He was in the Naval Reserves, serving in the JAG Corps. He was on the city council from 1978 until 1980, and then was Chino Mayor from 1980 until 1986, when he was elected to the board of supervisors.  He is married with three children.

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