Montgomery County Controller Diane Morgan addressed 14 members of the National Association o Women Business Owners Friday at the Springfield Township Library. Morgan talked about the accomplishments in the four years she has held the role, along with her frustrations and eventual lawsuit against the commissioners for what she alleges is underfunding of department.

by Barbara Sherf

Montgomery County Controller Diane Morgan pulled no punches Feb. 18 in a talk to members of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) at the Springfield Township Library.

Morgan recently sued the county commissioners to get them to fill vacancies in her office and “give her the tools she needs to do her job.”

The first woman and Democrat to be elected to the office in 150 years, Morgan said while she has made some positive changes within the department over the past four years “there is still some work to be done.”

She faces Republican opponent Stewart Greenleaf Jr., in the November election. Greenleaf, a Blue Bell attorney, is the son of longtime State Senator Stewart Greenleaf.

“He certainly has the name recognition,” said Morgan, a former business owner who is asking a judge to force the commissioners to allow her to hire four more auditors and one accountant.

“The county controller is obligated by law to perform audits, and my lawsuit is addressing the issue of not enough auditors to comply with that law,” she said after the meeting. “I’m having difficulty doing my job and holding government officials accountable.”

Morgan detailed how she initially got into politics over the Ambler asbestos pile cleanup and what she saw as the lack of oversight and open meetings during the Superfund process.

In her role as controller, Morgan is charged with, among other things, overseeing county expenses, the employee retirement fund, and looking for potential fraud or abuse of taxpayer money.

A resident of Lower Gwynedd, Morgan noted that she discovered $15 million in errors in the retirement fund after she took office in 2007. Since taking office, she noted that because of the understaffing issues, her department has not performed annual audits on the prison system, the county’s judiciary, or the probation and parole departments.

Morgan passed out her 2010 Annual Report to the 14 attendees at the meeting.  In it, she noted her accomplishments in terms of scanning and indexing county contracts, the purchase of an accounts payable imaging system, placing county contracts on the website, and clarification of employee expense reports.

She said she was also struggling to find $25,000 to upgrade the computer software system.

In previous news accounts, the county commissioners characterized 2011 as a tight financial year and asked all departments to slash their budgets by 5 percent.  However, the $14 million budget passed in December gave several departments – but not Morgan’s department – a pass on that mandate. In her summary remarks in the annual report, Morgan stated: “I will continue to seek methods leading to greater efficiencies, demand greater fiscal responsibility, and protect your taxpayer dollars to the best of my ability.”

The NAWBO group holds a satellite meeting the third Friday of each month from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Springfield Township Library.  The meetings are free and open to individuals who are interested in learning more about the association.

Barbara Sherf is a frequent contributor and a member of NAWBO.  She can be reached at 215-233-8022 or Barb@CommunicationsPro.com.