Athens County Auditor Race Heats Up

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With less than two weeks to go before election day, the race for Athens County Auditor is getting contentious.

Incumbent Jill Thompson faces city auditor Kathy Hecht in the race for the county's top financial job. In public statements, both candidates have emphasized the importance of transparency between the government and the public, but they say that's where their similiarties end.

Thompson was elected county auditor in 2000. Since then, she says she's radically changed the way the auditor's office interacts with the public. During her tenure, the office saw a website overhaul, modifications to the Athens' Geographic Information Software, and changes to public records accessibilty policies.

She contends that Hecht is unprepared to take on a more extensive role in local government.

"The most important things to me are being qualified, being accountable, being accesible and being transparent," said Thompson. "And those are things I think I've exhibited throughout my 14 years in public office and I just have not seen that from the city."

Hecht was elected to the city office in 2004.  Before that, she was a member of the City Council. In her time as auditor, she says she's focused on updating technology and cultivating positive working relationships with other government agencies. She's taken issue with several of Thompson's statements.

"There's nothing to be transparent about," said Hecht. "I'm not in the paper calling out what people are doing, because they're not doing it in the first place. They're not out there spending money, or buying a truck and not telling me."

She's referring the financial misappropriation scandal involving Athens County Sherriff Pat Kelly. Kelly was indicted on nearly two dozen criminal charges last spring. During last week's debate at the Athens Public Library, the two candidates argued about to avoid similiar situations. Hecht called for communication policy changes at the county level, while Hecht stood by her record.

The race will be decided on November 4.