Auditor looks to improve how office serves public

Two weeks into the job, Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton's office walls remain bare, but he's been brainstorming ways to improve how the office serves the public.

Beaton won the auditor seat in the Nov. 2 general election in a close race with former 21-year auditor Zona Lenhart.

As auditor, Beaton is in charge of the office's four departments -- elections, licensing, recording and accounting.

Beaton said he's trying to determine what changes are possible. For example, one suggestion was to move a wall in the recording department so employees working in the back can see when customers arrive.

He said his top priority remains finding a way to buy new financial software. The current system no longer is supported by the provider and has some limitations.

A committee made a recommendation on new software to county commissioners more than a year ago, but the commissioners have yet to approve money for the purchase, which Lenhart estimated would cost $500,000.

"Everybody recognizes the need," Beaton said. "It's just a matter of the tight financial environment that we are in."

Beaton said he also is trying to figure out how to open the licensing office earlier.

Hours were cut at the beginning of 2010 when the office lost staff in county budget cuts. Lenhart said the time was needed to give the remaining employees time in their work day to finish necessary tasks.

Beaton criticized that decision during the campaign, and he said he's looking at how to provide longer open hours with current staffing. "If we can do it, we are going to do it," he said.

One change he's already made was dismissing Sue Boothe, the auditor's administrative assistant, during his first week on the job. Boothe had worked for the auditor's office for 39 years.

Beaton said he plans to change the position to a substitute who can work in any of the four departments as needed to improve customer service.