Since taking office, Republican state Auditor Josh Gallion has been aggressive in pursuing his duties.
In the wake of controversy over a Super Bowl trip paid for by an energy company, Gallion’s office went after Governor Doug Burgum’s travel expenses.
His office also made headlines when they found that several state agencies, including the Tourism Department, were hoarding money in state funds.
Most recently the auditors under Gallion’s leadership revealed a troubling conflict of interest at the North Dakota State School of Science, including apparent efforts by the school to cover up said conflict.
While Gallion’s initiative has ruffled some feathers, that’s the job of an auditor. To ask the uncomfortable questions and hold state government accountable. But apparently feathers have been so ruffled the Legislature has decided to gut the authority of the auditor’s office.
State Rep. Luke Simons, a Republican from Dickinson, is blowing the whistle on it:
You can read the amendments he’s talking about here. They were made to SB2004, which is the budget for the Auditor’s office. Essentially the Auditor wouldn’t be able to do much of his job, including initiating audits of state agencies, without the permission of the Legislature or the Legislature’s Audit and Fiscal Review Committee.
The auditor would essentially lose almost all of his autonomy as an agent for accountability in state government.
Here’s an excerpt from the changes:
This budget now goes to Governor Doug Burgum’s desk for signature. Simons hopes Burgum vetoes the provisions of the bill limiting the powers of the auditor, and I agree, even despite the aforementioned audit of the governor’s office travel expenses.
It’s hard not to see these actions from the Legislature as punishment for Gallion doing his job too thoroughly.