By Benjamin Price, News-Leader

Nassau County has terminated its contract with the county auditor, Farmand, Farmand & Farmand.

The Nassau County Commission voted unanimously Wednes-day to end the contract ahead of its scheduled end date of March 2006.

Farmand has been under scrutiny since it was discovered a county employee embezzled more than $1 million from the clerk’s office without detection for several years.

Clerk of Court John Crawford submitted a letter last week recommending the contract be terminated early in order to change the county’s “culture of accountability.”

The county commission will put the auditing service out for bid and establish an audit committee to review bids and make a recommendation to the commission.

This is the first time in 25 years the audit contract has been put out for bid, Commission Chair Ansley Acree said Thursday.

Acree said the theft, and the fact the service was apparently never bid out for more than two decades, prompted her to vote for termination of the contract.

“Traditionally, especially in government, you really need to put services out for bid every five years when they’re under contract,” she said. “Businesswise, it’s just not a very smart thing to do.”

Farmand did not present the county’s 2003-4 audit until last week. The audit was delayed for months due to the discovery of embezzlement at the clerk’s office.

Former clerk employee Julie Mixon eventually confessed to the theft before committing suicide, and the state’s investigation found she had stolen from the office for years without detection by the clerk of court’s office or Farmand, Farmand & Farmand.

A.B. Farmand, a partner in the firm, said Thursday he had no knowledge of the commission’s vote to terminate the contract.