There is no evidence that would merit an investigation into nearly $9.5 million in engineering fees paid to the county engineer over the last five years, despite calls by two supervisors for an accounting, the State Auditor's Office says.

District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith last week called for a formal performance and operational audit following a published report in the Madison County Journal last month that County Engineer Rudy Warnock has been paid the unusually large sum.

Several supervisors have aggressively defended the payments to Warnock, saying they were in proportion with the scope of work being done in the county.

District 2 Supervisor Tim Johnson even accused Smith of being on a "witch hunt."

Warnock has denied any wrongdoing and says the fees are justified.

Along with the audit, Smith specifically called for copies of invoices between Warnock and subcontractors who performed environmental engineering work on the Calhoun Station Parkway project to be made public.

District 1 Supervisor John Bell Crosby seconded Smith's motions, but Johnson, District 4's Karl Banks and District 5's Paul Griffin all voted against them.

Meanwhile, the Madison County Chancery Clerk is conducting a formal review of the county's engineering contracts with Warnock and will produce a comparative analysis of all fees paid since 2005.

The State Auditor's Director of Communications Lisa Shoemaker confirmed this week that there was no investigation.

"We've received some inquires, but currently there's no investigation," Shoemaker said. "That doesn't prohibit us from doing something in the future, though."

Shoemaker noted that what Smith was asking for was a performance audit, which the county would have to pay for.

She called a performance audit a common tool used by local governments who want to be more efficient.

"Performance audits are great financial tools," Shoemaker said. "It lets you see what your deficiencies are and how your controls are working.

"For any local government who has questions about a better way to get the job done, it's a great tool for that," she added.

The cost of a performance audit depends on its scope, according to Shoemaker, who wouldn't give any type of estimate.

"Every single case is completely different," she said. "Even to evaluate the cost would take intensive interviews, so to provide a number could be misleading."

Johnson, Griffin and Banks said they couldn't see paying to have the state analyze the county's financial records.

Smith and Crosby argued that if everything was being done legally the county had nothing to fear and that a professional audit could help quell public doubt raised over the issue.

The expenditures on engineering fees have created a firestorm on social networking sites and in the blogosphere.

In Smith's call for a performance audit he issued a written statement to area media outlets stating: "The goal is to review and evaluate the current level of service practices; determine what if anything has been done improperly; determine what improvements and efficiencies can be achieved through application of best business practices; and to reassure residents of Madison County that proper procedures are being followed and their money is wisely spent, especially in these troubling economic times."

In response, Warnock sent out his own press release denying any wrongdoing, calling the allegations by Smith "totally unsubstantiated and politically motivated."

Last week Chancery Clerk Arthur Johnston took it upon himself to begin conducting a formal review of the county's engineering contracts.

Citing provisions in the state law that call for chancery clerks to audit the actions of county officials, Johnston said he felt enough questions have been raised to warrant the review.

"I'm going to undertake a thorough review of those contracts and invoices and let the facts show what the facts show," Johnston said. "I'm not an engineer, but I am the county auditor and I have an obligation to myself and the people to show the facts."

Johnston said the review will require a lot of work and predicted it could be months before he is finished.

Smith, who manages his own web site and frequently utilizes social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, said he has been inundated with comments and emails from residents regarding the issue.

Smith said a large majority of comments have backed up his call for an accounting on engineering fees.