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Question for voters: Should state auditor be a CPA?



Published: Wed, October 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio's auditor of state oversees an office of more than 700 auditors -- one of the largest accounting offices in the country.

According to the Web site of the present auditor, Betty Montgomery, the auditor is responsible for auditing all public offices in Ohio, including cities, villages, schools, universities, counties, townships and state agencies, boards and commissions.

It is the job of the auditor to see that local and state funds are spent according to state and local laws.

Montgomery is running for state attorney general, setting up a battle between two state legislators seeking to replace her.

The candidates

Barbara Sykes, 51, who was a member of Akron City Council for six years and has been a state representative from the 44th District since 2000, is the Democratic nominee. Sykes also has 12 years of experience as deputy auditor in the Summit County Auditor's Office.

Mary Taylor, 40, of Uniontown near Akron is in her second term as a representative of the 43rd House District. She is an accountant at Bober, Markey, Fedorovich and Co.

Both candidates hold bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Akron. Sykes brings more than 25 years of public service to the voters; Taylor has 16 years of professional auditing experience and three years in the Legislature.

Both are running on platforms that call for the auditor's office to more effectively fulfill its role as a watchdog of the public's funds. Where they differ is in their view of Montgomery. Sykes holds Montgomery responsible for not "putting a red flag" on unorthodox Bureau of Workers' Compensation investments with Tom Noe of Toledo. Taylor refuses to criticize the performance of Montgomery, a fellow Republican.

However, Taylor made a strong enough case for her election on other points to get The Vindicator's endorsement.

The tipping point

The state has had some fine administrators, some disastrous ones, and some remarkable politicians (Jim Rhodes comes to mind among those) in the auditor's office. What it has never had is a certified public accountant.

Taylor's election would rectify that.

Sykes and some others downplay the value of the auditor's being a CPA, noting that the primary responsibilities of the officeholder are administrative. And while Sykes has administrative experience in the county auditor's office, Taylor has private sector experience and her family owns a construction business.

We think it is time to make an accountant the head of the constitutional office that functions as the state's accountant. Sykes' observation that Enron was crawling in CPAs is glib, but unconvincing.

In a room full of accountants, Taylor will be in the better position to hold her own. In pursuing her plan to root out waste, fraud and abuse in the state's Medicaid system, Taylor's experience as a CPA will count.

Both candidates set a high bar for protecting Ohio taxpayers from fraud and waste, and we believe either candidate is prepared to do her best. But we came away from our interviews with the candidates convinced that Taylor's background better prepares her for the job.

The Vindicator endorses Mary Taylor for auditor of state.




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