You never know what you’ll find until you start looking.
That’s the realization that Gasconade County Sheriff John Romanus had after he had been in office a few months. Conducting an internal audit of the department’s computer systems, Romanus came to a startling conclusion:
The county’s law enforcement agency was breaking the law every day of the week.
Romanus enlisted the aid of AQM Computer Help of Union in exploring an upgrade of the GCSD’s computer systems; in the course of the analysis, a funny thing happened. Not Ha-Ha funny, but, rather, weird funny.
They found that the sheriff’s agency was doing what a lot of private companies have done — used computer programs without having the proper number of licenses. In other words, it was using computer programs illegally.
The sheriff outlined the findings recently to the Gasconade County Commission, which looked as surprised to hear this news as anyone in the makeshift Commission Chamber in the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
And, they were told, the fix was not going to be cheap. Just to get legal, just to obtain the necessary licenses for software to keep the Sheriff’s Department out of legal hot water, would cost about $6,000.
OK, but to bring the agency’s computer systems up to where Romanus and the AQM experts believe they need to be — in terms of speed and capacity and so forth — the cost would be about another $10,000.
Let’s not move over the issue of licenses too quickly. Years ago I worked for a company whose boss felt he could save some money by buying one program, making copies of that program and loading those copies onto computers. He did save money; that is, until the software manufacturer came around to do an audit and discovered there were multiple programs being used but only one license issued to the company.
Long story short, the money he save by making copies was eaten rather quickly by the $100,000 fine he was handed when the manufacturer decided to take legal action.
Let’s be honest — $6,000 out of a sheriff’s agency budget already strapped is a lot of money, but it’s a lot less than it could be if the sheriff tried to ignore the need to get the agency in compliance with the law. To his credit, Romanus knew exactly what had to be done.
I wonder: If the County Commission did a top-to-bottom review of the entire county government operation such as the review Romanus did of his agency, what do you think it might find?