County leaders have renewed the contract with Dixon Hughes Goodman to perform auditing services for next fiscal year. The decision wasn’t unanimous. Tuesday’s vote passed 3-1, with commissioners Boyce Deitz, Gayle Woody and Chairman Brian McMahan in favor, and commissioner Ron Mau opposed. Commissioner Mickey Luker was absent.

“I have been asking questions about our audited statements and health insurance for half a year now,” Mau said in a followup interview. “Management has yet to respond. Legally there is no requirement for government entities to change auditors, but there can be positives to making such changes on a regular basis. In my opinion, such a change would be good for accountability and the Jackson County taxpayers.”

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the county’s health insurance plan ended $1.4 million over budget. Officials chose to fill that gap with taxpayer dollars from the county’s general fund balance. The plan this past year will leave an estimated $1.2 million deficit, and it’s likely commissioners will make that payment with another transfer from the fund balance.

Mau, in a series of questions emailed to county Manager Don Adams in late March, asked what process officials have used to set rates for a plan designed to pay for itself. County Manager Don Adams, in a written reply, agreed the board needed to discuss how officials got to this point; however, so far, all of those discussions have happened behind closed doors.

The county’s contract with Dixon Hughes Goodman for 2019-20 amounts to $106,000. The Charlotte-based company is listed as one of the top 20 largest accounting firms in the country and is a longtime partner with local officials.The firm has several Jackson County ties and has performed auditing services for both the county and school system for more than five years running.

Western Carolina University renamed its accountancy program as the Dixon Hughes Goodman Accountancy Program in 2015 in recognition of gifts and pledges totaling $1 million from former Chief Executive Officer Ken Hughes and his firm’s partners.

A graduate of Western Carolina University’s accountancy program, Hughes was also formerly a member and chair of the WCU Foundation Board of Directors. He recently served on the university’s chancellor search committee and on the steering committee for its “Lead the Way” fundraising campaign.

Sylva native Mike Crawford currently serves as its chief operating officer.