That is the dollar amount of “financial errors” that North Dakota State Auditor Joshua Gallion discovered in the last year, after launching performance audits at twice the rate of his predecessor.*
So, uncork the champagne! Huzzahs all around! Back slaps.
But the back-slappers in the state legislature took a much different tack.
In the waning days of this year’s now-adjourned legislative session, in the opacity of a conference committee, a change somehow slipped into a bill. No future audits without legislative approval.
As news hit of this handcuffing of the elected watchdog, taxpayers turned livid. And legislators started tap-dancing, claiming that “the legislation had nothing to do with the new aggressiveness Gallion brought to the job.”
Finally, Rep. Keith Kempenich, the author of the change, confessed: “A lot of legislators started having some issues with the way things were going and wanted to reel him in.”
Kempenich added that the auditor’s work “isn’t supposed to embarrass people.” At his Minuteman Blog, Arthur Mason countered that such financial mismanagement is “worthy of embarrassment.”
Concerned citizens were already organizing to defeat the legislature’s proposed constitutional amendment giving themselves a veto on voter-initiated amendments, requiring a re-vote if politicians don’t like the people’s first vote. Now an additional effort is forming to petition a referendum or new initiative onto the ballot to stop the power-mad politicians from neutering the state auditor.
Who do these legislators think they are?
Seems North Dakota’s solons are in desperate need of still another reform measure: term limits.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Prior to Gallion’s 2016 election, the state auditor post had for 44 years been a hereditary fiefdom, held by Republican Robert Peterson for 20 years and, before that, for 24 years by Peterson’s father.