Doing the right thing, even though it’s not a politically advantageous thing, is a rare quality in politics. So let’s give North Dakota Auditor Josh Gallion, a Republican elected in 2016, some credit for initiating a review of Governor Doug Burgum’s use of taxpayer resources after controversy over his travel to the Super Bowl.
Burgum accepted from Xcel Energy a luxury trip to attend the big game worth in the ballpark of $40,000. When myself and others were critical of Burgum’s decision to take that trip on Xcel’s dime, the Governor reimbursed the company.
But now his office will face a review from state auditors:
Gallion informed Burgum in a March 22 letter that his office would conduct a performance audit focused on “travel related expenditures and use of state resources,” according to a copy of the document provided by Burgum’s office Tuesday, March 27. The audit will span from March 2016, during then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s tenure, to the end of February.
My colleague John Hageman wasn’t able to reach Gallion, but I got him on the phone this morning. He wouldn’t say specifically if the audit was motivated by the Super Bowl trip controversy, but he did say this review wasn’t scheduled.
“This is a performance audit,” Gallion told me. “This was ordered outside of what I would call the normal, operational audit.”
“I’m not here to make media buzz,” he added, declining my offer to interview him on my radio show today.
“At this point we need to follow our process and collect all the information. Disclosing anything could lead to a misrepresentation. I want to make sure that everything is thoroughly reviewed and vetted before we disclose anything. It would not be fair to anyone involved for partial information to be disclosed,” Gallion continued.
All of that is proper and prudent. Gallion told me he wanted to avoid any appearance that this review was motivated by politics, and he should.
Still, Gallion is a Republican. He’s just launched a review of our Republican governor’s office, knowing full well that despite his lack of answers on the motivation for the review that it would bring back to the headlines one of the most painful episodes from Burgum’s short time in office.
That’s not an easy thing to do, particularly when Gallion had no official obligation to do it. Kudos to him. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come under Gallion’s leadership of the Auditor’s office.
On a mostly unrelated note, did you know that North Dakota hasn’t had a Democratic auditor since the 19th century? It’s true.