Joseph only candidate qualified to be auditor

2014 election endorsement

Joseph only candidate qualified to be auditor

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 12:00 am

The Issue

  • The state auditor position has narrow duties and little power. The one thing it requires is experience in auditing. Of the two candidates, only Miranda Joseph has such experience.
Miranda Joseph is a trained auditor. Her opponent in the race for the state auditor position is not. For that reason, we endorse Joseph for the position.

The reasons the state auditor is an elected position may have been clear when the state Constitution was ratified in 1901, but are no longer. While regular audits of state property make sense, they could more efficiently be handled by qualified appointees or by external auditing firms.

It falls to voters, therefore, to choose a qualified auditor when one runs for the position.

Joseph, a Democrat from Birmingham, is certified in internal auditing and in risk management. The 29-year-old received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has worked as an internal auditor for a Birmingham bank and as an external auditor for several financial institutions.

Alabama’s state auditor has no power to do anything but perform constitutionally required audits. The auditor is responsible for the accounting of state personal property costing $500 or more. If state property is missing due to theft, the auditor has no authority to recover it. That job is left to the state Attorney General.

Unlike the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, the state auditor does not have significant oversight responsibilities for the accounts of entities receiving or disbursing public funds.

In short, the job of state auditor needs expertise in only one area: auditing. Only one candidate has that expertise.

Republican Jim Zeigler, a lawyer from Mobile, has no experience in auditing or accounting. He served one term on the Alabama Public Service Commission beginning 1974. Starting in 1982, Zeigler lost close races for state Supreme Court, state treasurer, civil appeals court and state auditor in 2002. Those close races earned the perpetual candidate the nickname “Mr. 49 Percent.”

Zeigler, 66, seeks to make up for his lack of experience with an abundance of enthusiasm. While acknowledging the state auditor has no power to retrieve stolen property, he promises he will bring lawsuits as a private citizen. This is a bad idea.

If he were to bring such suits, he would have to finance litigation costs out of his own pocket. Any time spent on such lawsuits would detract from the sole duty of the auditor, which is performing audits.

The Attorney General’s office — when it receives the support it needs from the state auditor — is well-equipped to bring lawsuits for recovery of state property, can prosecute crimes and already receives funding for the task.

Joseph and Zeigler are running for a job with narrow duties and little power. We would applaud Zeigler if he sought to amend the constitution to eliminate the requirement that the auditor be elected, but we foresee nothing but problems if he tries to turn the job into something it’s not.

Of the two candidates available, Joseph is the only one qualified to serve.

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