November 18th, 2010 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Clackamas County Earns Unwanted Attention from Wall Street Journal

Mount Hood from Lost Lake

Today's Wall Street Journal highlighted a fact Clackamas County probably would prefer went unpublicized: it took the county 274 days after the end of fiscal 2009 to publish an audited financial statement.

That time period of about nine months, for those not champing at the bit to read such documents, is a very long stretch. Municipal bond investors, who provide money to the county, want current, accurate information so they can judge the creditworthiness of borrowers such as the county.

There's no suggestion in the article or elsewhere that Clackamas County is in financial trouble; it just had a tough time getting its information put together.

The backdrop for the story is continued uneasiness in municipal bond markets, where states, cities and other local governments go to borrow money. With interest rates at historic lows, munis ought to be an attractive alternative to U.S. government debt but because local taxing authrorities' finances are in rough shape because of high unemployment, high foreclosure rates and plummeting property values.

Here's the explanation the county provided to The Journal:

Marc Gonzales, finance director for Clackamas County, attributes the delay to the two-month absence of the audit manager, on leave after having a heart attack at the beginning of the audit period. Also, it was only the second year the county was putting together the audit, a "huge undertaking," Mr. Gonzales says.

A regional accounting firm is handling preparation of the document for 2010.
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