One of the candidates vying for state auditor has extensive experience in managing government agencies. The other is a long-time legislator focused on using performance audits to fix government ills.
We prefer the former.
Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, a Democrat, gets our recommendation in this race. She is leaving her post after eight years because she’s hit the term-limit wall for the elected position. Prior to her stint managing Pierce County operations, she was the Pierce County auditor. Before that, she served 12 years on the Tacoma School Board.
Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way ran unsuccessfully for state auditor in 2012. He served 14 years in the state House as a Democrat but switched parties before running for the state Senate two years ago, saying that over time he felt his beliefs were more in line with Republicans.
He said his job as a former executive at Tacoma Goodwill and his auditing experience for the Air Force and on legislative committees has prepared him well for the state’s top financial examiner’s job.
Miloscia has a passion for improving efficiency in government and talks persistently on the power of performance audits. He says if elected state auditor, he would “go in” and conduct performance audits of government agencies throughout the state.
McCarthy, however, has actually worked with the state auditor’s office during her career in county government. She notes that there is a distinction between financial audits and performance audits and wants to create an environment where government agencies “welcome” both.
As executive for Pierce County, she oversees about 3,000 employees and about a $900 million budget. The state auditor’s office has a much smaller staff of about 350.
While Miloscia seems to believe the state auditor’s current staff will be able to take on the additional — and numerous — performance audits he envisions, we don’t think his plan is realistic.
McCarthy has experience in the trenches and knows how to manage a large government agency. She is grounded and has a better appreciation of the workload the auditing staff already has.
The state auditor’s office is typically described as the watchdog for public spending. It examines how government agencies are using tax money and checks for fraud.
So it was especially disturbing when it was discovered that the state’s top fiscal guardian was, himself, caught in alleged financial discretions. Auditor Troy Kelley is not seeking re-election and awaits a second trial next year on theft and money laundering charges in connection with a former business.
McCarthy and Miloscia both appear to be candidates who would bring transparency to the state auditor’s post.
But McCarthy gets our support because we think she has a better overall understanding of the job.
Miloscia recently held a news conference in Seattle announcing a plan to ban homeless encampments on public property, and to fine local governments that don’t enforce the law. He later criticized McCarthy for the rise in homelessness in Pierce County under her watch.
This tact of his is puzzling. Homelessness is not an issue that can be blamed on any one person. In his zeal to get elected as state auditor, he has attempted to link the solving of social problems with audit reports.
It isn’t that simple.
McCarthy has a pragmatic approach to the auditor’s job and a more agreeable management style.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Democrat Pat McCarthy for state auditor.
Look for our recommendation Sunday in the 8th District House race between state Rep. Larry Haler and challenger Steve Simmons.