Madison County Engineer Rudy Warnock has been paid nearly $9.5 million the last five years - a whopping $3.1 million during the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

To put this in perspective, the state's fastest growing county, DeSoto, paid its engineer only $648,308 in the same 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Ironically, Warnock was first appointed in an attempt to cut spending on engineering fees. Instead, these fees have increased more than 615 percent.

A common saying among engineers is all you need to be able to do to be a successful engineering contractor is to know how to count to three, three being the majority on a board of supervisors.

Warnock's rapid rise to power can almost entirely be attributed to the relationships he's developed with key members of the board.

Specifically, District 2 Supervisor Tim Johnson, District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks and District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin are all huge fans of Rudy.

While Johnson first opposed Warnock, he later became his biggest advocate, not only championing his appointment, but helping Warnock campaign as the Democrat nominee for Central District Transportation Commissioner against Republican Dick Hall in 2007. Banks and Griffin even appeared in a campaign commercial with Warnock.

While $9.5 million is a staggering amount, it is important to note that there have been no allegations of illegality and a majority of the members of the Board of Supervisors defends the fees.

But, Madison County taxpayers deserve an accounting from Warnock and the supervisors.

Last year hundreds of residents flooded the boardroom to protest the county's first tax increase in more than 20 years.

At the time, Supervisors blamed the tax on the increased cost of fuel and asphalt. Perhaps so, but supervisors should have to justify these enormous engineering fees.

This Board of Supervisors has been on a spending spree that no amount of growth could keep up with.

In 2006 they decided to undertake a controversial $100 million transportation plan and named Warnock the lead engineer.

While some supervisors insist the higher fees are justified and directly related to the scope of new road and bridge projects, others have concerns, as do we.

Banks pointed to the scope of work being done here over the last four years as a reason for the increase in engineering fees. "There have been a ton of projects compared to what we had with Williford (Gearhart and Knight)," Banks said.

But even Banks recognizes the disturbing nature of Warnock's expensive practice of subcontracting.

Warnock & Associates billed the county $1.37 million or nearly 10 percent of the cost on the three phases of Calhoun Station Parkway where more than $300,000 in environmental studies were subcontracted.

"It's something we talked about a few months ago actually," Banks said recently. "I for one definitely would want that practice of subcontracting to cease. If Rudy is having to go out and hire an engineering firm with different expertise that deal needs to be coming directly to us."

Banks is absolutely right. If Warnock lacks the expertise to perform certain tasks he has bid on, Supervisors should award those contracts directly to the subcontractor, cut out the middle man, and save taxpayer dollars.

Supervisors should scrutinize Warnock's invoices to make absolutely certain the taxpayers are getting their money's worth.

When it come to engineering fees in Madison County, there absolutely must be more accountability.