A public notice published in fall 2011 spelled the beginning of trouble for Monroe County’s auditor Amy Gerstman. As customary, the Herald-Times of Bloomington, Ind. published the 2012 Fiscal Budget as well as the time for the city council budget meeting. A few off-hand remarks about credit card spending didn’t match up with the budget, and the H-T pushed an investigation.
The Herald-Times filed a formal request for public records with the county commissioners regarding statements from a specific credit card account believed to have been held by county auditor Amy Gerstman. The county released statements from three Visa accounts, now closed, but documents for a fourth card were not released. It is believed by some that the fourth card had been used to pay for a training trip Gerstman did not attend. She did repay the county for it, but that statement has not been released.
One of the government’s arguments against public notice is that it costs a lot to have the information published. Bureaucrats argue it is a waste of citizens’ tax dollars. However, public notices are apparently necessary to help watch the government. Cases similar to the Gerstman incident are not unique to Indiana.
Public notice might be a monetary pain, but it is pain with a purpose.