Don’t Attack the State Auditor for Doing His Job

Josh Gallion, center, accepts the endorsement for state auditor at the North Dakota GOP Convention in Fargo on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Rick Abbott / The Forum

Rep. Roscoe Streyle, a Republican member of the North Dakota Legislature from Minot, has ripped Auditor Josh Gallion in a letter to the editor.

Gallion’s sin? Launching a review of travel expenses in Governor Doug Burgum’s office.

“I don’t use this term lightly, but this is clearly a witch hunt,” Streyle claims.

That’s not the only criticism of Gallion’s efforts. The Fargo Forum, while less vigorous in their criticism than Streyle is, also poo-poo’d the investigation in an editorial last month.

I disagree.

Even if Gallion’s inquiry reveals nothing untoward in the Governor’s office – and that may very well be the outcome – he should still be commended for taking the time (and the political risk) to inquire.

When Gallion first announced his audit I praised him for it. “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,” I wrote in March. “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.”

Some critics of Gallion want us to believe that his audit is blowback from Burgum’s campaign against the status quo in Bismarck. Burgum railed against the “good old boys club” in his campaign rhetoric. We are to believe, I guess, that this is said club’s revenge.

Except, Gallion was elected in 2016 on the same ballot Burgum was. He didn’t hold elected office before that. It’s hard to picture him as a member of the club. What’s more, Streyle was painted by Burgum’s campaign as one of the “good old boys.” The Minot lawmaker was an ardent backer of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for Governor in 2016, and sharply critical of Burgum at the time.

I think there’s a simpler explanation for what Gallion is trying to do.

Last year Governor Burgum embarrassed himself by accepting a Super Bowl trip paid for by Xcel Energy which was worth nearly $40,000. Burgum has since repaid the company for the trip, but that doesn’t make things right.

I suspect what Gallion is after is to determine if that singular episode of poor judgment has extended into other areas of his office.

You don’t know what’s under the rock until you lift it up and look. Even if Gallion’s inquiry reveals nothing untoward in the Governor’s office – and that may very well be the outcome – he should still be commended for taking the time (and the political risk) to inquire.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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