Time To Vote: Here Are The Candidates For Vermont Auditor

Oct 31, 2016

The auditor of accounts is tasked with reviewing state programs to find waste and inefficiency and to hold government agencies accountable.

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What does the Auditor do?

The auditor is charged with being a watchdog of state government. The mission of the office is to "foster the prevention of waste, fraud and abuse."

The office is responsible for evaluating whether state agencies are fulfilling their missions, and overseeing financial audits that track where taxpayers' dollars are going. 

The auditor doesn't make public policy, but he or she does make recommendations to lawmakers.

Who's running for auditor?

There are three candidates for auditor on Vermont's ballot in this general election:

Where are they on the issues?

All three spoke with VPR about their candidacies and their stances on various issues, including their thoughts on:

Credit Laura Potter

  • Liberty Union Candidate
  • Town of residence: East Charleston
  • Retired IT professional, now runs a small farm
  • Ran for lieutenant governor in 2014
  • Party website

On why she’s running for auditor

“I think that Vermont has a big problem with transparency. I was particularly disappointed with the Health Exchange and how it performed with its security issues. I did a Freedom of Information Act request about the security issues with the health exchange. They refused to release the results of its penetration tests for its securities, saying that was releasing HIPAA information. Computer organizations, if they have good security, always release their pen tests ... if they hide the results, that means something is wrong.”

On how the work of the office could improve

“Where I could gain access to information, I would use computer systems to make it accessible to Vermonters... [Doug Hoffer] has done a good job, but I would be much more aggressive in publishing information from agencies. I would be using information technology to publish that. I would set up websites that would publish information and make it accessible. Like, the courts of Vermont do not publish court information. Like, New York state, you can get criminal information, this is not so in Vermont. These are the kind of things that I would like to see as auditor.”

On being a nonpartisan watchdog for state government

“You’re hearing somebody who wants to open government, who wants to open the records for all. Are you hearing a Liberty Union platform? Not really. What you’re hearing is somebody who wants to open things and make things more fair.”

On whether auditor should be an elected position

“I think the more that Vermonters can vote on things the better.”

Want to hear more from Marina Brown?

  • Republican candidate
  • Town of residence: Essex Junction
  • Efficiency and financial consultant
  • Ran for governor in 2014 and 2010
  • Candidate website

On why he’s running for auditor

“After I ran for governor, a handful of Republicans reached out to me and said my platform was interesting, especially my ideas about how to measure and monitor the state’s activities and results. And how I was able to look at the budget for the state, how we can look at the operational efficiency to ensure we’re providing the right services.”

On how the work of the office could improve

“We don’t have operational insight into how the state is actually performing and how they’re using their resources. One of the things I’m talking about doing is introducing a very simple auditor’s scorecard that measures the financial performance. And understanding their customers. How do Vermonters feel about the performance?”

On being a nonpartisan watchdog for state government

“Everybody wants to understand that their tax dollars are being used appropriately. It’s not a partisan issue. Measuring everyone’s performance has nothing to do with passing policy ... and that’s the foundational thing of moving in the right direction and getting a grip on our costs.”

On whether auditor should be an elected position

“I think in the future I could see an auditor being not necessarily an elected role, but a role that’s nonpartisan within the state, with a professional leader in there. Not a hack that got elected because he’s a nice guy, but someone with the serious quantitative skills. I don’t think it should be appointed at all ... because it can’t be a partisan role.”

Want to hear more from Dan Feliciano?

  • Democratic/Progressive candidate, incumbent
  • Town of residence: Burlington
  • Incumbent auditor of accounts, seeking third term in office
  • Campaign website

On how the role of auditor can make a difference

“I’ve come to appreciate the somewhat less sexy world of nuts and bolts and machinery. And that is to say, how an entity the size of state government, which is really big business, really goes about its business day in and day out. Some of those things are very prosaic. They’re not about highfalutin decisions policy makers make about higher education. It’s more about, ‘Well, who gets a cell phone? How do we know we’ve gotten the right people cell phones and gotten the right plans for them? How do we know we’re adhering to the guidelines on purchasing practices?’ Are you adhering to the rules? Taxpayers have a right to expect that.”

On how the work of the office could improve

“I could probably do a better job communicating the work of the office. I tend not to be a good soundbite guy. Not that people of the state are looking for soundbite, but I tend to drone on into the weeds. That doesn’t always help the casual reader or listener.”

On being a nonpartisan watchdog for state government

“I take it very seriously that the work is nonpartisan. I don’t work for the governor. I don’t work for the Legislature, although I obviously want to work with them. If the work is high quality and presented professionally and respectfully, that’s how you’re likely to get their attention and get them to implement your recommendations."

On whether auditor should be an elected position

“The alternative is for that position to be appointed, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m not an accountant by trade, I was trained as a lawyer ... We’ve had a number of auditors in the modern era, in the last 25 years, only one of whom was an auditor. I think in each case, we all brought something different to the office. It’s really a matter of judgment, and how you motivate and manage the staff that you have. You don’t have to be an accountant or an auditor to do that.”

Want to hear more from Doug Hoffer?

Time To Vote: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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