North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner appears to have difficulty keeping his stories straight. I intended on writing about this yesterday, but only had time to get out the story on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler being caught in a lie by the very office her department was criticizing— the State Auditor.
You may have already seen it, but Senator Wardner dropped a Letter to the Editor yesterday saying “the time has come to set the record straight” about the legislature’s stripping the State Auditor of his authority to initiate performance audits. He also had it published on Say Anything Blog as a guest post.
There’s much to be addressed in Wardner’s letter. In his effort to defend the legislature’s power grab, he correctly quotes the State Constitution as granting them the authority to define the State Auditor’s “powers and duties”. We actually published an article about the constitutional aspect just over a week ago, when we suggested that changes need to be made to our state’s founding document. Yes, that’s right, we don’t think the legislature should get to define the powers and duties of the State Auditor.
But what’s most interesting to me in Senator Wardner’s letter is the underlined and bolded statement found in the following paragraph:
“This entire debate started when the North Dakota State Auditor requested 11 additional staff members. To better understand why such a large increase was warranted, the legislature gave the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee (LAFRC) the ability to review and approve the Auditor’s pursuit of performance audits. We did so to better understand the request, how performance audits impact the auditor’s primary duty of fiscal audits and judge the need for additional funding and Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions. Keep in mind, performance audits account for only a small fraction of the audits conducted by the auditor’s office.” (Emphasis Added)
Did you catch that? “We did so to better understand…”, says Wardner. He clearly illustrates that the power grab was done with a purpose. In other words, they knew what they were doing. This might not seem like such a big deal, unless you recall — as I do — the Associated Press reporting this a month ago:
“Wardner said he didn’t know the amendment had been put in the budget bill when he voted on it, and believes other senators didn’t know either.” (Emphasis Added)
In fact, Wardner told the AP’s James MacPherson:
“There was no controversy when it passed and that tells me we didn’t know about it.”
So, which is it? Did he know or didn’t he? Not even his more advanced age and position in the State Legislature allows him to have it both ways. Perhaps he’s caught a case of Baesleritis— a condition known to result in difficulty keeping a story straight or inhibiting a person’s ability to tell the truth. I suppose we’ll leave the explanation for the apparent contradiction to Senator Wardner. After all, he’s the one who made the statements.
Having said that, I don’t think the Senate Majority Leader did much to “set the record straight’. But what he did accomplish is to give us yet another example that reinforces what many of us know already— we need an independent State Auditor.
Indeed, it seems we have our own Swamp in Bismarck. I suppose it shouldn’t be any surprise that they’re attacking a man who wants to drain it.
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