LePage’s people should stop attacking PA’s auditor (with update)

Eugene DePasquale, Auditor General of Pennsylvania

Eugene DePasquale, Auditor General of Pennsylvania

After Gov. LePage gave a nearly $1 million no-bid contract to a consultant who had worked in Pennsylvania, people, naturally, started looking into what Mr. Alexander had done in Pennsylvania.

They discovered he resigned after his work was scrutinized in order to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Soon after Alexander left, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania fired three top staffers who worked closely with Alexander.

Consultant Alexander was audited by the Auditor General of Pennsylvania, so Maine reporters examined the audit itself (which can be read here) and interviewed the auditor.

As reporter Scott Thistle wrote:

A November report issued by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale showed mismanagement of a portion of that state’s Medicaid system by Alexander and his staff cost the state an estimated $7 million in increased costs.

DePasquale said Monday he found Maine’s decision to contract Alexander’s company “amazing.”

“I’m sitting here thinking, ‘OK, what type of background check was done on this?’” DePasquale said. “Certainly nobody contacted the state of Pennsylvania about him. He left this state, we do this audit, it was well-documented this was a major problem and literally on the heels of our audit coming out, he was hired by Maine.” 

Now Gov. LePage’s people are trashing Pennsylvania’s auditor

For example, as Thistle reports:

“His interests only lie in pursuing a liberal agenda,” a spokesman for LePage’s re-election campaign said of DePasquale Monday via email.

Moreover, attacks continued on Twitter Monday evening, with Brent Littlefield writing, “story on PA auditor not accurate. He is a elected, partisan who previously worked for Dem Nat’l Chairman Ed Rendell.”

Attacking the messenger is a long-standing political tactic. But, still, what do we know about Auditor Eugene DePasquale? 

Regarding his training and credentials, he has both a Masters in Public Administration and a law degree.

He has a demonstrated commitment to transparency and saving money for the state, including — and this is striking — in his own operations.

In his first nine months as Auditor General, DePasquale reformed his department by conducting an internal audit. He then made dramatic reforms, including:

  • Reduced travel expenses, including cutting the vehicle fleet by more than 40 percent;
  • Eliminated a backlog of 1,500 audits in the first 90 days;
  • Initiated a multi-year strategic information technology upgrade;
  • Created a long-term plan for fiscal stability;
  • Cut costs by reorganizing the department;
  • Improved efficiency with electronic audit distribution and record-keeping systems;
  • Saved more than $100,000 a year by eliminating printing operation; and
  • Saved $320,000 in lease expenses by consolidating office space.

In his six years in the state House of Representatives, DePasquale was a leader for government reform and accountability. He was the first legislator to post his expenses online, refused pay raises, returned unused expenses to the state and led efforts to end special privileges for legislators, including private car leases. [source]

A look at the audits he’s performed makes it clear that the work is systematic and does not seem to be focused on particular political targets. (The audit reports are on-line and can be accessed at this link.)

Now, it’s true that DePasquale is a Democrat who was elected to the position. But that doesn’t mean that his office’s audit was badly done or poorly motivated.

In any case, the work itself is what should be examined. The Pennsylvania audit certainly uncovered problems, and the Republican governor fired Alexander’s top staff after Alexander resigned.

Attacking Auditor DePasquale should stop.

Update:  A health policy scholar who works in Pennsylvania contacted me in writing, saying:

There are a number of points to make, 1) the PA Auditor General’s office has as its head an elected official but officers and staff from the Deputy AG’s on down are professional accountants, lawyers, and public administrators many of whom have served for decades under Republicans and Democrats, 2) Mr DePasquale did not personally conduct this audit, the professional staff did, 3) the focused nature of the audit and its findings reflect not a partisan witch hunt but rather a focused investigation of a specific issue/transaction that raises a number of questions about the actions at PA DPW.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.