Independence Matters. Sure, Fine. Just Tell That to the DART Board.

Tomorrow at 1 p.m. the audit committee of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board is going to hear a 15-minute presentation from DART’s general counsel concerning “DART's External Financial Auditor's January 22, 2008 Communication Regarding Independence Matters.”

Translation: How come Deloitte Touche, the external auditors for DART, had a $20,000-a-year side deal with former DART chairwomen Lynn Flint Shaw they forgot to tell anybody about until Shaw got into hot water?

“Independence matters” is a phrase referring to a basic rule of accounting ethics -- that if you you’re supposed to be an independent outside auditor, you shouldn’t do things that will make you less independent, like, specifically, entering into certain kinds of financial transactions with the directors of the entity you’re supposed to audit. Whether the specific kind of deal Deloitte Touche had with Shaw was a violation of that principle, I don’t know, because I don’t have the details, and I’m not a lawyer or an accountant. It smells like hell, but smells-like-hell isn’t necessarily guilty.

At 2:30 p.m., DART’s committee-of-the-whole is going to hear the same presentation. And then at 6:30 p.m. the full DART board is going to hear it all again.

I am going to go listen to it all three times, because I’m interested in a strictly non-technical question: How many other DART directors have side deals with Deloitte or other DART contractors? Are they even going to look at that? Or are they going to go deep-technical on us, give us a stickery-prickly legal opinion and try to put the whole thing to bed with that?

Let make try to put this is layman’s terms: From a public political point of view in the context of community values and commonly accepted ethical beliefs, what kind of douchebags are these people anyway?

I’ll let you know. --Jim Schutze

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