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erty intrusted to its agents. It is believed that the property, belonging to the old Vermont State Bank, has been commit ted to the agent, appointed by law to settle that concern, without inventory,
It is not known that any records of that property have been kept for many years, nor is it an easy matter to exhibit the amount committed to the different agents, intrusted with the settlement of the concerns of that institution, without a long and difficult examination of the history of that Bank, from the time it ceased to discount. The law, apă pointing those agents, made no provision for an inventory of the property intrusted to them, or for auditing and settling their accounts. As honorable men, they were allowed to retain such sum as they might deem to be a just compensation for their services, and to transmit the balance of the funds, with which they were intrusted, to their successors in office.
The law thus placed these agents in the position of being auditors of their own claims against the government.
By the 4th section of chap. 9 of the military act, passed in 1837, the Commandants of Regiments were authorized to draw on the Treasury for an indefinite sum, to pay officers and soldiers required to attend regimental drills, and all sums thus drawn were at the disposal of the Quarter-masters of the regiments. The law required no accounting, whether the officers and soldiers attended the drill or not, or were or were not entitled to pay.
By the 15th sec. chap 10th of the act, in addition to the act of 1837, it was provided, that it shall be the duty of the commandant of each regiment to certify on his order upon the Treasurer, that the regimental drills, &c. have been duly held. Still there was no provision for accounting for the money, should a balance be left in the hands of the quartermaster.
In the 4th section of the act in addition to the several acts regulating and governing the militia of this state, passed Oct. 29th, 1840, it is provided that “any neglect of the several Quartermasters of regiments, to make the return herein required, or of suffering any of the funds of the regiment, in their hands, to be paid out for any other purposes, than those required by law, shall be deemed a breach of the condition of their bonds." Still no accountability is secured, because it is made the duty of no one to see that their accounts are rendered, or that the bond is put in suit; for though by sec. 1st the Quartermaster General is authorized to prosecute any breach of such bond, it is not made his duty to do so.
The statute makes it the duty of county clerks to keep account of all monies by them received as court and jury fees, and settle the same with the judges at each term of the court, and after paying jury fees, &c., “ the balance to be paid to the State Treasurer.” Should a clerk neglect to settle his account, or to pay the balance to the State Treasurer, it would without doubt be a breach of the condition of his of. ficial bond, but a knowledge of these facts might never reach the Treasurer, or any one whose duty it is to prosecute the bond; or if the bond were put in suit, the evidence would be wanting to prove the amount of the liability of the clerk.
The Board of Commissioners for the instruction of the deaf, dumb and blind, are required by the statute to make an annual report to the Governor, of their proceedings, with an account of the expenditures incurred by them in the discharge of their duties. If these commissioners annually make their report, and the Governor approve of the disbursement of the appropriation, made by the Legislature for that object, the money is accounted for; otherwise not, as the last section of the act relates only to the personal expenses of the commissioners, which are settled by another department.
The law creating the office of Sergeant-at-arms, required that officer to give bonds, but it was made the duty of no one to take notice of the infraction of the conditions of that bond. That officer is required to make an accurate schedule or inventory, embracing every article of furniture, &c., and annually deliver it to the Secretary of State, to be preserved on file in his office. This duty may be all executed to the letter of the law, and still the property of the state may be purloined to an indefinite amount with perfect impunity, for it is the business of no one to compare the property furnished for the use of the succeeding Legislature, with the inventory lodged in the Secretary's office.
The law designed to secure the accountability of States' Attorneys, seems to require to be modified in several particulars. In the first place, the method provided by law, now in force, to ascertain the liability of State's attorneys, and to
charge them in account, is circuitous, complex, and difficult to be carried into operation. It is less simple and direct than it should be, to facilitate and secure a perfect accountability. Justly to charge a State's attorney, with all the moneys which may come into his hands, in the discharge of his official duty, depends upon several contingencies, either of which failing, a correct account cannot be kept with the attorney. The Treasurer is the officer intrusted with the duty of opening and keeping accounts with State's attorneys. By sec. 54th, chap. 11th, each State's attorney is required annually to make out and exhibit to the State Treasurer, on or before the 15th of October, an account of the disposition of all fines, forfeitures, costs, judgments, &c.; and by the 56th section the State Treasurer is authorized to audit and allow such account, &c.
In practice, this accounting, by the attorney with the Treasurer, is simply the presenting, by the attorney, of a statement of his own account, accompanied with the payment of such sum as the statement shows to be due, and from the nature of the case it cannot be otherwise.
These accounts are generally presented in the early part of the session of the Legislature, when the time of the Treasurer is fully occupied in the more appropriate duties of his office. If the attorney rightly balance his own account, after having charged himself with all his liabilities, all is accounted for; otherwise not. These accounts are presented on loose pieces of paper; nothing is transferred to books, and the accounts themselves, in times past, have been suffered to be scattered in the Treasurer's office, like Sibyl's leaves, in the cave, liable by every accident to be lost or destroyed. The statute of 1807 imposed upon the Treasurer the duty of opening an account with each State's attorney in the several counties. To enable him to do so, the several county clerks were required annually to make and transmit to the Clerk of the General Assembly, at the October session, a true and just statement of all the civil causes in favor of the State Treasurer, and also all the criminal causes entered on the dockets of the respective courts, during the preceding year, &c. In Slade's edition of Laws, page 561, it is made the duty of the Clerk of the General Assembly “to transmit the original returns, after they had entered them on the Journals of the
House, to the Treasurer of this State.” This was done to enable him to compare the returns made by the Clerks with the returns made by the State's attorneys, and therefrom to commence and open an account between the State and each State's attorney. The Clerks were directed to make these returns annually, at the October session of the General Assembly, and this might not be till after the attorney had rendered and settled his account, and of course could not aid the Treasurer, in making the settlement, even if other circumstances had been favorable. In the Revised Statutes it is not made the duty of the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit the original returns of State causes to the Treasurer. Still the Treasurer is authorized finally to adjust and close said accounts.
In the revision, the county clerks are not required to make their returns to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, till the third Thursday of October, nor is the Clerk of the House required by that statute to enter those returns on the journals at all, though the practice has been to do so. It would seem that the original design of these returns had wholly failed, and it is difficult to perceive any valuable purpose to be accomplished, either in making these returns, or in their yearly publication in the Journals. It is evident that they cannot aid the Treasurer in settling the State's attorneys' accounts, and it may happen that the publication of a prosecution for an infamous crime, will injuriously affect the reputation of the innocent. The making and the publication of these returns are an occasion of considerable annual expense, which might be avoided with no detriment to the public service. As the law now is, there can be no other accounting with State's attornies than that before described, which is no other, than the mere statement of the attorney himself. The law requiring county clerks to make returns of state causes, was designed at once to be a check upon State's attorneys, and to aid the Treasurer in keeping those accounts. This law has not been carried into the revision, and to require the Treasurer to secure the State against loss in such case, would be to require him to deliver the tale of bricks,” while the straw is withheld.
In the 10th Sec. Chap. VIII. R. S. it is made the duty of the Treasurer, within thirty days after the close of each ses. sion of the Legislature, to commence suits, among others, against State's Attorneys, who have been delinquent &c. in the payment of dues to the Treasurer. And in the 11th Sec. it is enacted, “If the Treasurer shall neglect to commence suits, as provided in the preceding section, he shall be answerable for such delinquency, in the same manner as if the sum so in arrear had been paid into the Treasury when due.” The purpose, to protect the Treasury from loss, is here strongly manifested, but the law must always fail of its designed operation. How is the Treasurer to be informed whether an attorney has been delinquent in the payment of dues to the Treasury ? Fines, forfeitures, costs and judgments may have been collected by the attorney, and still no knowledge of the fact may have reached the Treasurer.
True, by the letter of the law, he shall be accountable for all such delinquencies, in the same manner, as if the sums, so in arrear, had been paid into the Treasury when due, if he neglect to bring suit within thirty days; still it is doubtful whether our courts would enforce a law so manifestly unjust. From a brief consideration of the subject, it is apparent, that the different portions of the law, designed to secure accountability in public officers, are disjointed and do not harmonize together; that the system is complicated, and wanting in unity and directness of application, to the purpose to which it was designed, and that portions of the system are entirely expletive and useless.
That division of labor, so necessary to the satisfactory accomplishment of any purpose is wanting in our system of accounting. The appropriate duty of the Treasurer is to receive and disburse the public funds. To unite the auditing or allowing department with the disbursing department, seems manifestly incongruous. And yet, as the law now is, the Treasurer, in some cases, is made an accounting officer, and this, too, in cases, which may affect his own interest. Thus it makes him auditor to settle and allow accounts of State's Attorneys, where the allowance of an unjust credit to the attorney, might, in a certain event, free him, from an equal amount of liability to the State Treasury. The operation of the law is virtually to constitute the Treasurer Auditor to settle his own accountability to the Treasury. Another reason, why the Treasurer should not be called to the settlement of ac