The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners

Bills, Bills, Bills: How the Auditor Protects Taxpayer Dollars

October 18, 2023 Missoula County Commissioners Season 4 Episode 2
Bills, Bills, Bills: How the Auditor Protects Taxpayer Dollars
The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners
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The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners
Bills, Bills, Bills: How the Auditor Protects Taxpayer Dollars
Oct 18, 2023 Season 4 Episode 2
Missoula County Commissioners

Local government is a large, busy organization. Who makes sure all payments the County makes are to the right vendors and are for legitimate county expenses? This week, the commissioners talked with Missoula County Auditor Dave Wall about safeguarding taxpayer dollars, fraud detection and the importance of internal financial controls.  

Related links:

Thank you to Missoula's Community Media Resource for podcast recording support!

Show Notes Transcript

Local government is a large, busy organization. Who makes sure all payments the County makes are to the right vendors and are for legitimate county expenses? This week, the commissioners talked with Missoula County Auditor Dave Wall about safeguarding taxpayer dollars, fraud detection and the importance of internal financial controls.  

Related links:

Thank you to Missoula's Community Media Resource for podcast recording support!

Juanita Vero: [00:00:10] Welcome back to the agenda with your Missoula County Commissioners. I'm Juanita Vero and I'm here with my fellow commissioners Josh Slotnick and Dave Strohmaier. And today we're joined by Dave Wall, the Missoula County auditor. Welcome, Dave.


Dave Wall: [00:00:23] Thank you. I'm really glad to be here.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:00:24] What the heck is an auditor? I see you're wearing your green visor today, and that's.


Dave Wall: [00:00:30] To deal with the glare from my lamp as I go.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:00:33] Better than my forehead. Yeah.


Dave Wall: [00:00:35] I was going to bring up my adding machine with the little arm chunk. Um, so, uh, county auditor is there to be an the internal audit function for county governments. [00:00:45] We do our best to make sure that policy is followed in our purchasing and travel and just kind of in everything to make sure that money is not spent in a way that is inappropriate for, for example, for somebody's private vacation or something like that. You know, we want to make sure people aren't committing abuses or fraud with public dollars. [00:01:07]


Dave Strohmaier: [00:01:07]  [00:01:07]Do all counties have auditors? [00:01:08]


Dave Wall: [00:01:09]  [00:01:09]No. So by statute, every county I believe above 10,000 has an auditor. But most county auditors, it's combined with other offices. There are six counties with a full time elected auditors. It's somewhat rare. I always say we're small but mighty. [00:01:23]


Juanita Vero: [00:01:24] I didn't realize that there are only six.


Josh Slotnick: [00:01:26] Dave, you said a key word in there...Elected auditors. So someone who's never heard of an auditor before might say, well, why don't you just hire an auditor? I go through all this rigmarole. Elections cost money, and there's all that visual blight of yard signs. Et cetera.


Dave Wall: [00:01:42] So my yard signs were really nice looking.


Josh Slotnick: [00:01:46] That was another joke that didn't land. I'm. Oh, for two this morning. So why should the auditor be elected?


Dave Wall: [00:01:53] That's a good question. And I have reasons for thinking that the auditor should be elected. On the other hand, I'm the elected auditor, so that makes sense. I think you can make a case that you simply should hire an auditor. The thing is, there has to be some way in which the internal auditor for any organization, whether it's government or private industry or whatever, has independence from management and a very good way to make sure that the internal auditor of a government has independence is by making them an elected official.


Josh Slotnick: [00:02:23] That means you don't work for the board of county commissioners, you don't work for the sheriff. You don't work for the county attorney or any other elected official.


Dave Wall: [00:02:30] Right? Right. If somebody came up to me and said, Dave, you know, you really need to to look at Dave Strohmaier.


Josh Slotnick: [00:02:36] He wants to go to that rail conference in Cabo. Exactly.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:02:39] They might have a rail conference there, too. And.


Dave Wall: [00:02:42] You know, Dave is just using these trips for personal vacation, not even, you know, doing any county work. I can look into it. I'm not pressured into dropping things if, say, the COO or the CAO or any of the commissioners or any elected official or any department head decide it's in their best interest for me to back off. It doesn't matter. I have independence and I can.


Juanita Vero: [00:03:04] And then who manages the auditor?


Dave Wall: [00:03:08] The 115,000 citizens of the county.


Juanita Vero: [00:03:11] ...Is elected, yes, but that transparency. How do we know what you're doing, what you say you're doing?


Dave Wall: [00:03:16] Absolutely. Well, it is true that the county commissioners are charged with making sure all elected officials discharge their duties, their statutory duties. So the way I look over everybody else's shoulder, you all can look over my shoulder. You just can't tell me what I can and cannot look into. Also, all of the the work that we do is public. I mean, it's, you know, there's RFPs on the website. All of our claims documentation is on the website. Anybody can look at it.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:03:43] I'm still hung up on these 50 out of 56 counties who do not have an auditor such as yourself. So whether you're a small county or a large county, there's still the potential for fraud and misuse of public resources. How do they fill kind of the function of an auditor, even if they don't have a full time auditor?


Dave Wall: [00:04:05] To be frank, sometimes they don't. Most counties have some kind of auditors function, but it's usually combined with, say, the Treasurer's office if there's going to be combined, you really want to be careful where you combine those, like maybe with the county attorney or even the sheriff or something like that. But the treasurer, that's interesting. The auditors, according to statute, need to get together the list of claims against the county and present them to the county commissioners. So a lot of the times that's just done wrote, you know, they just take from however claims are processed in those counties, they just make a list and present them to the county commissioners. They don't actually audit the claims. And, you know, they don't have time, you know, most likely. And then a lot of places are kind of in between. Auditing claims is all they do. You know, there are some places where it's a one person office or a half time auditor or something like that. There's lots of different variations. It just depends on the size of the county and frankly, how important they think this function is, which is the same in even in for profit businesses. You have a lot of variability in how robust the internal audit function is.


Josh Slotnick: [00:05:11] There's a very big one in the national news right now.


Dave Wall: [00:05:14] Is this another joke?


Josh Slotnick: [00:05:14] No, no, I'm done with I'm done with that. I fail zero for three. No, no, I remember the jokes though. It's not like I don't forget you guys were gone. I'm talking about about SPF and the whole crypto fiasco and this, this this guy had a hedge fund over here and this crypto exchange over there, and there was no auditing. Money was free flowing between these sides through the semi-permeable membrane. And nobody knew where the money was going or what the expenses were for. This guy was using investor money to buy himself houses and private jets and things like that. Interestingly enough, this had nothing to do with crypto and everything to do with no auditing. This man was taking money that was invested in his company and spending it on his own private life, and then calling these things expenses. He's going to spend decades in jail.


Dave Wall: [00:06:02] Yeah, it sounds a lot like a Ponzi scheme where you take for sure, and then you take more money coming in from people and you use.


Josh Slotnick: [00:06:09] That as a 21st century Jack Abramoff.


Dave Wall: [00:06:12] Yeah, absolutely.


Juanita Vero: [00:06:13] Well, so back to Missoula County auditing, like walk us through how a transaction works or an audit works. Sure.


Dave Wall: [00:06:21] I can talk about the claims. Mainly we audit claims every day. When I say claims against the county, what I'm talking about is essentially our bills. When we receive an invoice or a payment for a contract comes up and some outside entity contacts us saying, you owe us money, that's a claim against the county. So it's essentially just paying the bills every day. The various departments throughout the county actually input their claims and enter their claims at the department level into our accounting.


Juanita Vero: [00:06:48] And there's almost 30 different departments.


Dave Wall: [00:06:51] So they input their claims. It goes through finance to assign them a purchase order number. And then the finance department sends them down to the auditor's office. By the way, the auditor's office does have a few bills that we pay, but we cannot enter claims since we audit them. So we actually have to have the finance department enter our claims for us just to have that separation of duties, one of the basic one of your classic internal controls. When it comes down to the auditor's office, this is normally done by Laurie and Lester. They take a look at all of our claims that come through every day, and they make sure, first of all, we're paying the right vendor, that we're paying the correct amount, and they find out, at least to a degree, what it is we're paying for so that they can make sure that's a legitimate claim against the county, that it's actually a county expense and not somebody's personal expense. And also to make sure we haven't paid it before we guard against duplicate payments. The way they do that is when they click on a particular claim, they can open up documentation that must be provided by the departments when they enter it, so that we can look in the accounting system. This is who we pay and what we pay, how much and for what.


Dave Wall: [00:07:56] And we can compare that to the document that was sent by the that company. If it's a company we haven't heard of, we could Google that company to make sure it's a real company. One of your classic frauds is creating fake companies and fake invoices and sending them in for payment. That happens at governments all over the country. And so there's just various things we look forward to make sure we're paying legitimate claims against the county. Then we gather those up as a large batch and per statute, we have to get that list to the county commissioners so that you all can approve of those. And you all look for something a little bit different than the auditors look for, you know, you have to approve the budget, right? So you're kind of thinking, is this really what we signed up for? Is this the appropriate use of the money? And that in that way you're not really looking for fraud? This is what they said they were going to spend money on. And so they're doing it. So it's it's a little bit different role. And then once you all sign off on it, we cut the checks or usually send out a ACH payment, the automated clearing House payment.


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:55] So Dave, a lot of this sounds fairly black and white and without inherent values other than truth and accountability. You've been able to put forth some policies that are really value rich in an environment that feels like it's not the place for that. I feel like it's been really successful. Do you mind talking about that a little bit?


Dave Wall: [00:09:16] Oh, I appreciate you saying that. And it means a lot to me. I think part of being satisfied with every job and being fulfilled with any job, you have to really feel like you can adapt it to your own values and make sure you're really doing something valuable for the community. And there's no question that just even in that black and white sense, we're talking about stewardship of public dollars. I think that alone is very important and very rich. But in creating policy that we make sure we follow, I also think it's important that we have a great deal of respect for working people, the working people that that work here at the county government. Sometimes it is a balancing act, trying to make sure that we're good stewards of public dollars without being a complete pain in the butt for people who are trying to get things done. So we want to make sure that people have flexibility. They can spend county dollars the same way a business would spend their business dollars in many, in many ways it used to. Be that county employees were not allowed to use county dollars to buy Kleenex for their desk, like central services downstairs would not. Were not allowed to have Kleenex. People could buy Kleenex on their own and bring them in.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:10:19] I think we bought burlap.


Josh Slotnick: [00:10:21] Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly.


Dave Wall: [00:10:24] So, you know, we put a change to that. We value our employees. They all have very difficult jobs that were very hard for the people of the county, and they deserve to have the same things that you would get if you were working at a bank or a law office or something like that. So we have respect for working people. Also, I firmly believe that our purchasing patterns make a difference in the community. I feel like our purchasing should reflect the values of the community. We maybe want to spend more dollars in local businesses rather than going to, you know, online retailers or something like that, although we do plenty of that too. Again, these are not prescriptive. These are just things we we try to emphasize. We try to emphasize good environmental practices in our purchasing, making sure we're thinking about environmental sustainability. We think about equity issues and make sure that every business has a fair chance to do business with Missoula County, no matter who the owner of that business is, what group they may belong to, we can create policy that makes sure that we're true to our values, while at the same time being good stewards. And in fact, it is being good stewards of public dollars. If you spend five bucks on a piece of equipment, instead of seven bucks on a piece of equipment, but the company you buy it from is from way outside of the county, from some faraway place. You just don't feel good about it. That's $5 wasted. We didn't save $2. We just wasted $5. It's being good stewards doesn't mean always going for the cheapest option. It means making the most difference in our community via the dollars that we spend.


Juanita Vero: [00:11:56] Very well said. Thank you for taking the time to explain. You've been at this for a while. So what? What changes have you have you seen over your time in this position?


Dave Wall: [00:12:05] I can tell you the biggest change within myself is a recognition that for anything that I work on, whether it's policy, whether it's even auditing a particular thing, whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish, it's going to get better results if I work with other people. I think understanding that the relationships you build, even as an auditor, especially as an auditor, perhaps are incredibly important. If if I am just looking over somebody's shoulder and saying, this is policy, this is what you have to do, and they say, well, I'm not going to do it. I mean, I can't find them. I can't put them in jail. Right? All I could do, like any auditor, is observe and report, report to the commissioners. If, on the other hand, I have a good relationship with people and we have a conversation about policy and we talk about these claims, you're going to get better compliance with with policies. And if there's a real problem with if they're like, well, I'd like to comply with this policy, but we're constrained because of this, this and this. It is perhaps true that there's something wrong with the policy. Maybe we have to take a look at that. That's okay. I'm not overly proud of any policies that I've written. If we need to take another look at policy and make a change, I am fine with that if it's for a good reason.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:13:15] Dave, while we're talking about policies, I want to drill down just a little bit more into procurement policy. Oh yeah, and one thing that has sparked a little bit of lively discussion within our community is and recognizing that we, as Missoula County, place a premium on equity in doing everything that we do. Talk a little bit about your approach and the eventual policy that was drafted that looked at preference. Yeah. During the RFP request for proposal process procurement process as it relates to historically disadvantaged groups.


Dave Wall: [00:13:54] Absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. So there are groups of people that have been disadvantaged in a lot of ways throughout this country. And, you know, whether we're talking about wealth gaps or differences in incarceration rates, whatnot, the same groups of people, because especially of the wealth gap, to be, to be frank, have always had a harder time contracting with governments all over the country. This is because any business that will send in a bid or a proposal has to put in a cost estimate or a cost bid with that. That cost bid has to make sure that they meet their own expenses. If their own expenses are higher, because the cost of raising capital is higher, the cost of credit is higher, say, from their financial institution. Not that their financial institution is being prejudiced in any way, but the system of credit is prejudiced on its own, as a system, as a structure. And so if you're a group who has, let's say, one tenth of the the wealth of the dominant sort of caste in our society, then it's going to be very difficult for you to put together a bid that is competitive with that dominant. Cast's bid, and the reason is your bills will be higher.


Dave Wall: [00:15:11] Your expenses will be higher because the cost of credit is higher. That's just how the system is run. It's not like anybody is being racist or sexist or anything like that. It's just that it was designed to make sure that the dominant, the dominant caste in our society remains so and so. What I would like to do is simply play a small part to make sure that every business, no matter who owns that business, has a fair chance, an equal chance to do business with the county government. And that doesn't mean that we prefer to give contracts to one group of people over another group of people. It just means we want to level the playing field. We did pass a resolution in which if a company is listed as a disadvantaged business enterprise, which is a specific designation by the state of Montana, and it's actually the state of Montana Department of Transportation, although it doesn't have to be transportation related. That's just the part of the state government that does this. If they are listed as a disadvantaged business enterprise, they do get a preferential bid of 5%. In other words, their bid amount is reduced by 5% in order to give them fair chance to get a contract.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:16:27] So am I hearing this correctly that it's not just Missoula County getting all wild and crazy? We are using something that is already in use by the Montana Department of Transportation.


Dave Wall: [00:16:36] That is exactly correct. Yes.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:16:39] Okay. Thanks for that clarification.


Dave Wall: [00:16:41] Yeah, absolutely. Glad. I always love talking about that. Yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:16:44] Tell us a good a fun auditor story. Like what's sticky, what's what's a pain in the ass or oops, I didn't say that. What is I.


Josh Slotnick: [00:16:52] Like a fun auditor story a fun.


Speaker5: [00:16:54] Auditor story.


Josh Slotnick: [00:16:55] Yeah, yeah, it can go any direction you like.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:16:57] Some people may think that's an oxymoron, but.


Dave Wall: [00:16:59] So here's a here's a fun one. This is great. We had a group of county employees at one time, worked for some county department who was engaged in a certain kind of training that these employees absolutely needed. They 100% needed in order to do their jobs and serve the people of Missoula County. There was a certain vendor who gave a little promo to these employees, and it was a very special class of employees. Basically, if they agreed to pay double the price, they would receive that extra as a gift of some kind, a credit for them to use at But it would go to them individually, not to the county or to their department. We found this out. And here's the fun part. I got to tell them that they had to pay the county back. Isn't that great?


Josh Slotnick: [00:17:45] Oh boy.


Dave Wall: [00:17:47] I know that's it's good for a laugh. Yeah, it's it's it's really.


Josh Slotnick: [00:17:50] How did that go over?


Dave Wall: [00:17:51] It was hard, but it went over well. The department and department head that I worked with was outstanding. We had some difficult conversations, but it was very much understandable, especially when we explained why that behavior was not appropriate. And we kind of just went from there. And so.


Juanita Vero: [00:18:11] The company that kind of baited the department to say more about that, they.


Dave Wall: [00:18:16] Don't necessarily target government employees normally.


Juanita Vero: [00:18:20] Better. That's the wrong word. I don't know what else to use, but no.


Dave Wall: [00:18:23] No, I think baited is exactly the right word. I would just say that it's they they normally focus on employees who may not be in government work and so maybe don't have that kind of.


Juanita Vero: [00:18:34] Oversight.


Dave Wall: [00:18:34] Or. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it could be many other employees. Their organization may not pay for that training. They would have to pay for it themselves. And so they can decide is this worth it or not. Yeah. But this training was this.


Juanita Vero: [00:18:48] Was paid for by the county.


Dave Wall: [00:18:50] Yeah. Yeah. This was government money.


Josh Slotnick: [00:18:52] I remember Dave having a chat with you once about the factors that often line up that lead to fraud. And I remember thinking, wow, this is really interesting. I never kind of unpacked fraud like this before.


Dave Wall: [00:19:02] Yeah, yeah. So there's a famous and by famous I mean among people who look at fraud, it's famous triangle called the fraud triangle. And it essentially it states that you have to have all three of these pieces in place in order for fraud then to occur. The first one is the person has to be kind of they have to be in a position that they feel a need. So there has to be a financial need that perhaps they didn't expect. It's amazing how many times that has to do with gambling addictions. But also there's there's medical issues, all kinds of things. So there's some kind of financial need.


Josh Slotnick: [00:19:36] So it's an acute and unexpected financial need. Yeah.


Dave Wall: [00:19:39] Absolutely acute. Nice. Good word. The second one is an opportunity. So the opportunity has to present itself. And this is where auditing has traditionally kicked in. But at the place of employment they have access to money in some way or another. Whether it's taking cash from a till or sending a wire to an individual bank account, what have you. And as far as an opportunity, like they they think they won't get caught, they think they won't get in trouble. And then. The third one is they have to rationalize that behavior and rationalization like, you know, I'm underpaid, I really have earned this, or oftentimes this is an emergency. I'm going to pay it back very, very soon. And those things then start to snowball. You never I can just about promise this. You never get somebody waking up in the in the morning saying, ha ha ha, I'm going to I'm going to commit fraud against my employer today. Oh, I can't wait. It is always a person who is got their back against the wall and they're scared. When people are scared, they that's not the best place to make decisions and they make very poor decisions. And so besides that opportunity piece and that's where internal controls get come into play. So separation of duties, dual control things like that to to make it kind of obvious. Well if you try and do something somebody will notice. You know also that rationalization part is very important. So you know put up posters of Martin Luther King and Gandhi all over the walls, talk about ethical behavior and, you know, things like that. So an organization that has really good resources for its employees as far as if something happens where they have a medical need, is that organization have the kind of insurance that they can kind of handle that mental health needs, legal needs. You know, here at the county, we have that legal shield through our risk and benefits department, those kind of things. How an organization treats its employees is very important in reducing fraud.


Josh Slotnick: [00:21:41] So people don't feel like, oh my gosh, I have no other option if there's another option.


Dave Wall: [00:21:47] That's right, that's right.


Josh Slotnick: [00:21:48] I actually have an option.


Dave Wall: [00:21:49] If they see a path forward, they'll take the path. Fraud is always fraught with danger and fear and anxiety and stress. So people don't normally do that unless they're aberrant people that get a kick out of it. But when you go to fraud conferences, oftentimes the keynote speaker is somebody who has committed some high profile fraud and is now lecturing because they have to, or maybe because it's just a way for them to make money. It's always the same thing. It starts out small. It starts out because they're scared of something and it just starts to snowball, and they end up with millions of dollars and no way out, and they just absolutely get caught. And they often say, if I had just stayed with that first $2,000, stealing that $2,000, I would never have gotten caught. And that's not really how it works.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:33] You ever go to a fraud conference and get to the hotel and find out? It's like much smaller and shittier than it was advertised every time.


Dave Wall: [00:22:39] Every time.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:40] Okay. One for four. Okay.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:22:45] So this is a great Segway because this is the point in our episodes where we usually like to ask our guests, if you've read a good book, seen a good movie, gone to a good something? Yeah.


Josh Slotnick: [00:22:59] Heard something interesting on a podcast. Anything out there, anything that might inspire us.


Dave Wall: [00:23:03] I like to read a lot. I've read many, many books lately. In fact, sometimes I read too fast. It's kind of a bad habit and I don't get as much out of it. So actually, I've come prepared and I actually have like four books. Is it? Do I have time to talk about four books? Very quickly?


Dave Strohmaier: [00:23:19] Lay it on us.


Dave Wall: [00:23:20] I promise it won't...The first one is kind of an obvious one. I think she was here the other night. I didn't get in to see Robin.


Josh Slotnick: [00:23:28] Oh, yeah.


Dave Wall: [00:23:29] No, it was. It was twofold.


Josh Slotnick: [00:23:30] So good.


Dave Wall: [00:23:31] 15 minutes early.


Josh Slotnick: [00:23:32] But everybody loves that book.


Dave Wall: [00:23:33] Oh, yeah. Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the Teaching of Plants is the subtitle. And it really changed how I think about my own relationship with the natural world. And the thing I loved about it. I talk about reading too fast, her writing style, I had to slow down. It was a very meditative book for me. You had to sort of take your time with it. It took me a long time to read it and I just loved it. It's one of the best books I've ever read for anything. Another one that I think is just I really recommend to everyone is called How the Word Is Passed. The subtitle of this is A reckoning with the History of Slavery across America, written by a really great journalist named Clint Smith. He essentially goes on trips to different areas in America that have some connection to slavery, whether it's an old plantation or at a Juneteenth celebration in Galveston, Texas, or at a Civil War battlefield or something like that. He just goes all around America. And it's about how this country discusses slavery or doesn't. And it's a really terrific book. Another one, there's a couple philosophy. So I'm reading.


Josh Slotnick: [00:24:46] Yeah, yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:24:47] Pointing at the two gents here.


Dave Wall: [00:24:50] This one I'm currently reading about halfway done is called arguing for a Better World How Philosophy can help us Fight social justice, fight for social justice, not fight social justice.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:25:01] Fight for social. That's important.


Dave Wall: [00:25:02] And the author's name is Arianne Shahvisi. She is a philosophy professor in. England. And her big point, I'll just say at the beginning, is how she learned in math that it's very important to show your work. Right answer, wrong answer, show your work. And we've become very interested in claiming we're part of a certain community. And I think about this a lot with JEDI. Like, okay, I love.


Juanita Vero: [00:25:26] Justice, equity, diversity, inclusion.


Dave Wall: [00:25:28] That's me. That's who I am. And yet if somebody came in were to ask me, what about this? What about this? For me, being part of that community is kind of as deep as I often go. I need to show my work, I need to. I need to really think about these questions philosophically and find out why are these things really important. So it asks questions about, like if you say men are trash, is that sexist? If you say all lives matter, is that racist? Something like that? Or if you say Black Lives Matter, is that racist? It really delves into the philosophical constructs and also language, and discusses why you should feel one way or the other, or why she feels one way or the other specifically.


Josh Slotnick: [00:26:12] Fascinating.


Dave Wall: [00:26:13] Yeah, it's really great. And then the last one, this one you guys are going to eat up. I think this is so great. I have one chapter left in this. It's called monsters A Fan's Dilemma by a terrific writer named Claire Dederer. Or so she wrote an article a while back called What to Do with the Art of Monstrous Men. And this is a book version of how do you consume art that you love when the artist is so problematic? And she starts off by talking about Roman Polanski. She loves the work of Roman Polanski, and he has such an asshole. He is such a I mean, he's a he's a criminal. It's a really fascinating topic. It's a great book.


Josh Slotnick: [00:26:52] So it's a really interesting question. How do you love the artist and don't pick on the art.


Dave Wall: [00:26:57] Or Picasso or Hemingway or whatever?


Josh Slotnick: [00:26:58] I mean, yeah, I feel like it's a much bigger deal for people right now than it was even 20, 30 years ago. Maybe we just.


Dave Wall: [00:27:08] Everyone's biography now.


Josh Slotnick: [00:27:09] Yeah, it seems we're much more aware.


Dave Wall: [00:27:11] Yeah for sure.


Juanita Vero: [00:27:12] For sure. More information is out there and available.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:27:15] Dave, I've got a little bit of a meta closing question for you here. So being the avid reader that you are, how do you go about deciding what to read?


Dave Wall: [00:27:26] Gosh.


Juanita Vero: [00:27:27] Great question.


Dave Wall: [00:27:27] Yeah.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:27:29] Do you stroll through the bookstores and see what catches your eye>


Dave Wall: [00:27:33] often. Often that's the case. Or I'll just hear about books from listening to the radio or on social media or people talking to me about books. Sometimes I'll actually scroll on Amazon and just look at different either social justice books or American history books and just look, see what looks interesting, and then go buy them from Shakespeare and company. And often I, you know, we all I'm sure we all think it's fun just to stroll in a bookstore and just start looking. What a great way to spend an hour.


Juanita Vero: [00:28:02] Anyway, is there a genre that you've ignored or. Oh yes, turn your back to that. Now you're like, oh, maybe I'll go check that out again.


Dave Wall: [00:28:12] Yes.


Juanita Vero: [00:28:13] Because you mentioned your your passion for social justice, but is there something, that that's a relatively recent one?


Dave Wall: [00:28:19] I have to say it really, I really didn't start reading social justice books until George Floyd was murdered. And then it's been little but that since that time. But before that, I read a lot of American history and a lot of economics. And so I just kind of interested in modern economic thought and what people think. We've talked about Keynes a few times. Josh. Yeah, I'm kind of interested in a lot of different genres. I just read a book a little while ago about this art thief. He was a he was a guy in France. He and his girlfriend stole hundreds of pieces of art from museums all over Europe. Wow. And they would essentially go in during the day when when the museums were open and would make sure they're kind of face was covered, so the cameras wouldn't necessarily see who they were, and they would kind of time it to make sure guards went around. But they would like unscrew Plexiglas and just swipe things and cut a painting out of its frame and take the painting and right there in the middle of the day. And they did this hundreds of times before again, eventually getting caught.


Josh Slotnick: [00:29:25] Were they doing it more for the thrill of doing it?


Dave Strohmaier: [00:29:27] Yeah. Does the fraud triangle apply? Yeah. Just like that.


Dave Wall: [00:29:31] I know that's I don't know that we would of course call that fraud. But I will say his view was that he did it because he just loved beautiful things so much, and he felt like they weren't being appreciated properly in the settings that they were in. And so he took them to he still lived with his mother, so he took them to his mother's house into the attic where he lived. And that was a better.


Josh Slotnick: [00:29:54] Appreciated them properly.


Dave Wall: [00:29:58] There was obviously a compulsion here, you know, there's there's more to it than that. But that was a pretty interesting book. So, yeah, art history.


Speaker5: [00:30:05] I guess.


Dave Wall: [00:30:06] Another one I like. Well, thanks for.


Speaker5: [00:30:08] Joining us. Thanks a ton for coming.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:30:10] Thank you. Really appreciate it.


Dave Wall: [00:30:11] Sure. Absolutely. Thanks for bringing me up here to talk about books.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:30:15] We'll do it again.


Josh Slotnick: [00:30:16] See you next time.


Dave Strohmaier: [00:30:17] See you next time.


Josh Slotnick: [00:30:18] Thanks for listening to the agenda. If you enjoy these conversations, it would mean a lot. If you rate and review the show on whichever podcast app you use.


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Dave Strohmaier: [00:30:32] The agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners is made possible with support from Missoula Community Access Television, better known as mCAT, and our staff in the Missoula County Communications Division.


Josh Slotnick: [00:30:44] If you have a question or a topic you'd like us to discuss on a future episode, email it to


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Dave Strohmaier: [00:30:59] Thanks for listening.