Auditor candidates clash over experience, transparency

By Paige Clark
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The race to become the next state auditor has become in part about what qualifies as the right experience for the job.

Republican Suzanne Crouch talks with reporters after she was sworn in last January as the state's new auditor. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Republican Suzanne Crouch talks with reporters after she was sworn in last January as the state’s new auditor. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Suzanne Crouch, the incumbent who was appointed to the post early this year, says her work as a former county auditor, county commissioner and state lawmaker gives her a wealth of knowledge to draw from in the job.

But Democrat Mike Claytor has a different idea of what qualifies as experience. He is the first certified public accountant to run for state auditor in Indiana’s history and says that’s the kind of experience the office needs.

“I think having a qualified candidate, as opposed to just another politician makes a great difference,” Claytor said. “I actually know how the state system works. I spent 15 years with the Indiana State Board of Accounts.”

Voters will choose the next auditor when they go to the polls Nov. 4. The auditor oversees the state’s payroll and financial transactions.

Four years ago, voters gave the post to Tim Berry, who resigned in 2013 to become chairman of the Indiana Republican Party. Gov. Mike Pence picked then-Brownsburg Town Councilman Dwayne Sawyer to replace Berry but Sawyer resigned a few months later citing personal reasons.

Then last December, Pence appointed Crouch, who said her “experiences not only at the state, but local level, qualify me to be the chief financial officer for the state of Indiana.“

Although the candidates are from different parties, they both share similar goals and expectations for the state auditor’s office.

Both want to increase transparency and accountability of the office.

Mike Claytor, the Democrats' nominee for state auditor, said at the party's state convention that he owns a calculator "and I know how to use it." Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

Mike Claytor, the Democrats’ nominee for state auditor, said at the party’s state convention that he owns a calculator “and I know how to use it.” Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com

However, Crouch thinks the state’s current transparency portal is among the best in the nation. It recently received the top ranking from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s fifth annual evaluation of state transparency websites.

Indiana received an A- on the evaluation, the highest grade doled out. The rubric for the evaluation says A states have use-friendly websites, not just for ordinary citizens, but also for experts and watchdogs to analyze the checkbook dataset.

But Claytor thinks the website could be better and that “transparency is certainly an issue.” He said the auditor is the lead agency for the portal.

“Our portal is not necessarily accurate, complete, or timely and not very user-friendly,” Claytor said.

“There have been news reports about state agencies not getting information out about a state agency or erasing information,” Claytor said. “That really does not allow citizens to know or understand where their money is being spent if the website is not complete. I think it is important that the state auditor ensures that all the information is complete and accurate.”

Crouch said she has worked to increase transparency her entire career as a public servant. And she said she was the first person to televise meetings during her time as county commissioner to improve transparency at the local level.

“The more transparent the government is the more (citizens) know about it and the more accountable it is,” Crouch said. “I want to continue to do it for the taxpayers. Every dollar must be spent with consideration, every dollar that comes to the government has a name and face attached to it.”

But, Claytor said accountability is more than increasing transparency. He wants to introduce “an internal auditor program to the state auditor’s office.”

“The state auditor’s office doesn’t really do any auditing but they should really be doing internal auditing,” Claytor said. “The auditors office has really become a very clerical function. It’s really just a check process function. It really doesn’t do any auditing of state bodies or state agencies. It really needs to go back to being an oversight agency.”

Paige Clark is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College students.

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