Posts tagged: Idaho state treasurer
Idaho state Treasurer Ron Crane’s Democratic challenger, Twin Falls CPA Deborah Silver, went on the attack in a televised debate between the two on Thursday night, charging that Crane should be fired as state treasurer for a fund transfer that auditors say cost state taxpayers at least $10 million. “In the business world, we know how this would end – the treasurer would be fired,” Silver declared. “The only way to fire this treasurer is with your vote. I am running to give Idaho taxpayers a choice for honest stewardship of their tax dollars.”
Crane protested that his office “vociferously disagreed with the findings of the legislative auditors,” and defended his actions in the transfer, which occurred after he said mortgage-backed securities the state had purchased in 2005, 2006 and 2007 were showing $70 million in losses as the housing market collapsed.
“I held those securities and rode out the storm, letting them come back in value toward par,” Crane said. “Last year, 2013, I had enough interest earnings and portfolio gains to wash out five of the seven securities and still show a profit of $122,000 for the general fund and $2 million for all the rest of the portfolios that I manage. I still have two of those securities in my portfolio. A year ago at this time, they were about $17.5 million underwater. Today, as of Friday, they are $9.6 million underwater. So they’re coming back, they’re moving in the right direction.”
Crane charged that legislative auditors wanted him to sell the securities at the time and realize the full $70 million in losses. But a critical state audit report didn’t suggest that; instead, it faulted him for transferring the securities from a local government investment pool to the investment fund for state money, shifting the losses to state taxpayers rather than local governments. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Tonight on Idaho Public Television, state Treasurer Ron Crane and Democratic challenger Deborah Silver will debate at 8:30 as part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. After tonight’s debate, the series continues with the candidates for state superintendent of schools on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., lieutenant governor Oct. 30 at 8:30 p.m., and candidates for governor facing off Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
The office of state Treasurer Ron Crane received a clean bill of health in a new management audit out today from Idaho’s state auditor’s office. The new management review, which covers fiscal years 2011, ’12 and ’13, is a turnaround from the previous three-year report, which highlighted three concerns that state auditors reported to the Idaho Attorney General having to do with gas card purchases, staff time and state funds supporting a program that wasn’t specifically authorized by the Legislature, and travel costs for annual bond rating trips to New York, including the use of stretch limos to transport Idaho’s delegation there.
All three of those have been “satisfactorily closed,” the new management audit reports.
Crane welcomed the new audit, saying, “I am extremely proud of our office and my staff!” which he said runs “a clean, efficient and smooth operation for the benefit of taxpayers in Idaho.” Said Crane, “We strive to provide the best service possible through innovation and to protect the state’s assets by applying prudent and ethical banking and investment practices.”
The gas card issue dealt with Crane charging nearly $8,000 on a state credit card for gas for his commutes from his Canyon County home to the Capitol; while auditors thought that violated the state’s travel policy, the Attorney General later found that it didn’t. Nevertheless, Crane stopped charging the state for gas for his commute, and now pays for his own.
The second finding involved the “Smart Money, Smart Women” conference that Crane’s office has been sponsoring annually around the state. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee now authorizes $10,000 in annual expenditures specifically for that conference in Crane’s budget.
The third, dealing with the New York trips, prompted changes in how travel costs are accounted for in the annual bond rating trips to New York. Also, Crane said the Idaho delegation now is transported in SUVs rather than stretch limos.
The three-year review is required by state law; the state Audits Division, which falls under the Idaho Legislature, conducts the management reviews for all agencies. They are online here. The management reviews are separate from the statewide Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and Internal Controls Report, online here, which is required under governmental accounting standards and examines financial details; it is completed every year for all state agencies. That financial audit is the one that highlighted issues with Crane’s shifting of investments from one investment pool to another, which the audit said cost state taxpayers $10 million; a 90-day follow-up to that audit issued at the end of June said auditors still haven’t received documentation of a full review to show whether there were other such issues.
Deborah Silver, the Twin Falls accountant who’s challenging four-term state Treasurer Ron Crane, is calling on Crane to release a full review of questioned investment transactions to state auditors. “What else does he have to hide?” Silver asked. “Idaho taxpayers deserve the truth from their state treasurer.”
Crane maintains he’s released all the information he can, but Idaho’s state auditor’s office, in an audit report released at the end of June, said it still hadn’t received documentation showing that Crane’s office has reviewed all potentially problematic transactions, after news of one surfaced in which a state investment pool lost millions when Crane’s office reallocated assets between it and a local government investment pool.
“While documentation of two specific reallocations was provided during the audit, no additional evidence supporting a full review of all potentially inappropriate reallocations was provided,” the late-June audit report said. Laura Steffler, Crane’s chief deputy, wrote in the office’s official response submitted for that report that the office had reviewed all securities lending transactions for reallocation of assets between investment portfolios directed by the office since July 1, 2008, and had already provided all the documentation.
“Short of just saying we did it, I don’t know how else we can prove … that we did it,” said Ken Burgess, spokesman for Crane’s re-election campaign. He said Crane’s office offered the auditors access to the full documentation for every one of the tens of thousands of transactions completed under its securities lending agreement since 2008, and the auditors declined that offer. “They said we don’t want all this stuff – we just want you to somehow prove that you did a full review,” Burgess said. “How do you prove that, short of taking our word that we did it?”
Silver responded, “That makes absolutely no sense. There are statements, with the allocations going back and forth reconciling the balance. … In my view, either he really does not understand what the auditors want, or he’s deliberately dodging.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
In his 16 years as Idaho’s state treasurer, Ron Crane has built up the state’s credit rating, launched a popular college savings program and a free annual control-your-finances conference for women, and helped create a bond bank that lets local school bonds and other local-government debt take advantage of the state’s favorable interest rates, potentially saving property taxpayers millions. But he’s best known for a series of critical state audit findings over the past five years, the most recent suggesting that Crane made an inappropriate transfer between two funds that cost the state’s taxpayers more than $10 million.
Crane vigorously disputes the audit finding, contending his office did nothing wrong and made reasonable decisions based on what it knew at the time. “As to the charges of the audit, I maintain and will maintain that they were politically motivated,” Crane said in an interview. “We think there’s an excellent explanation for each one. When voters understand what the real explanation is, they will agree with our position.”
The audit findings have prompted a longtime Twin Falls CPA, Deborah Silver, to challenge Crane in this year’s general election. “I would absolutely follow the auditors’ suggestions, no argument, no excuses,” said Silver, a Democrat who taught accounting at the College of Southern Idaho for five years and has operated a CPA firm with her husband in Twin Falls for nearly three decades. “This is a job that I can do.”
The Spokesman-Review asked David Burgstahler, the Julius A. Roller Professor of Accounting at the University of Washington, to review the audit finding about the fund transfer and Crane’s detailed response. “I found the auditor’s conclusions pretty convincing,” Burgstahler said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Inappropriate transfers by Treasurer Ron Crane's office have cost taxpayers $10.2 million so far, but the hit to public money could rise to $27 million, according to an audit that concludes Idaho's money manager overrode internal controls meant to help contain financial risks. Legislative auditors concluded in a report that Crane's office should strengthen its measures designed to keep Idaho from losing money. Crane, whose management has drawn fire from auditors in the past including for using limousines in trips to New York, didn't immediately return a phone call Friday. But in a written response, Crane says he disagrees with the finding. The losses result from investments in mortgage-backed securities hit by the housing bubble's collapse. Crane shifted these investments between accounts in 2009, exposing state taxpayers to the risk.
You can read Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence's full report here. State lawmakers received the audit report today. Click below for the full AP report from reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislative auditors found several problems with how Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane oversaw his office's accounting, including how he documented trips to New York City where some costs were found to exceed allowable limits. Crane disputes the findings, contending no previous audits of his office raised similar concerns. Still, the four-term Republican agreed to report expenditures through Idaho's accounting system in the future, among other changes. For months, it's been public knowledge Crane's office was under scrutiny, after The Associated Press reported he used stretch limousines on New York trips to transport family members. Monday's report outlines three findings: Crane's New York trips weren't adequately documented; he didn't properly account for a taxpayer-provided Chevron card used to gas up his private vehicle; and he exceeded his office's authority with several programs. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A southwestern Idaho county prosecutor won't pursue criminal charges against state Treasurer Ron Crane over his use of a state gas card to fill up his private vehicle. Canyon County prosecutor Bryan Taylor did recommend Crane begin more-comprehensive record keeping, to ensure he's not using taxpayer-funded gasoline for personal trips. Taylor also said he strongly advocates for the state to clarify its state travel policy. Crane said in a statement that he was delighted with Taylor's findings — and will keep comprehensive driving records. His office's finances have been the focus of an audit by Legislative Services. The state forwarded concerns over Crane's use of a state Chevron card to fill up his personal vehicle and commute to and from the Capitol in Boise to the prosecutor for further scrutiny. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
The Associated Press today reports a new wrinkle in the controversy over state Treasurer Ron Crane using a state gas card to gas up his personal vehicle for his commutes from Canyon County to the state Capitol: Other state employees who are reimbursed for commuting travel report that benefit as income and pay taxes on it. Crane doesn't. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
A southwestern Idaho prosecutor is scrutinizing whether state Treasurer Ron Crane broke the law by using a state credit card to fuel up a personal vehicle he drives to and from the Capitol, and on short excursions to grocery stores or church, the Associated Press reports. Canyon County prosecutor Bryan Taylor confirmed to the AP that Idaho Legislative Services auditors who have been reviewing the financial records of Crane's office for months have forwarded their preliminary findings to him. “They've asked us to see if any criminal offense took place within Canyon County's jurisdiction,” Taylor said. “We're fairly early into that investigation.” Click below for the full story from AP reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State Treasurer Ron Crane says relatives accompanying Idaho officials on annual trips to New York City should repay the state if their presence adds to ground transportation costs. Last week, The Associated Press reported Crane's office spent $10,000 since 2009 on stretch limousines and executive sedans to transport state employees and their family members while in New York. In an interview Tuesday, Crane said past instances where relatives added to costs, including for cars carrying their luggage, reflected “oversights,” not common practice. If spouses or children increase the bill, Crane said they should cover it. Still, Crane said transporting officials by limousine to meetings with ratings agencies to discuss Idaho's credit-worthiness remains appropriate, because it lets them travel together without risking getting split up, as they might in multiple taxis. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
A stretch limousine for eight people - with minibar, mood lights and TV - awaited Idaho Sen. Dean Cameron when he arrived with his wife at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 7, 2009, reports Associated Press reporter John Miller. Cameron was with state Treasurer Ron Crane's annual Wall Street pilgrimage, to meet with ratings agencies over the $500 million in short-term debt securities that Idaho sells yearly to finance government's day-to-day affairs. “I was surprised,” said Cameron, a Rupert Republican. “I don't think I'd ever ridden in a stretch limousine before, nor have I since.” Cameron, who rode into Manhattan with Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and their spouses, was also surprised this week to finally learn the limo bill: $244.13. Miller reports that Crane's office spent nearly $10,000 on stretch limousines, Lincoln Town Cars and executive sedans to transport Idaho state employees and their family members from 2009 through 2011, when taxis would have been cheaper, and that similar expenditures were made by state treasurers in previous years as well. Click below for Miller's full report.
Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane underwent open-heart surgery this morning, and his office reports that Crane had a successful triple bypass operation and is resting comfortably in a Boise hospital; he is expected to return to work at the state Capitol in about two weeks.
Crane, 62, is serving his fourth term as state treasurer; last year, he was re-elected without opposition. A Republican, he served 16 years in the state House of Representatives before being elected to the state office, in which he serves as the state's chief fiscal officer and banker of monies collected by the state.