Legal ruling ends auditing squabble

March 21, 1991|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- A dispute between Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the legislature's auditing staff has apparently been resolved by the state attorney general.

A 12-page opinion handed down by J. Joseph Curran Jr. states that the auditors should not have to submit written questions in advance, as suggested by Governor Schaefer. The proposal was vehemently opposed by auditors and legislators.

The attorney general did outline some general restrictions under which audits should be conducted. They included giving agencies advance notice of what records auditors wanted to review.

"I think it puts us back to where we've always been and we can go back to auditing in the same fashion we've always audited state agencies," William S. Ratchford II, director of the legislature's Department of Fiscal Services, said. Mr. Ratchford's department audits state agencies.

Paul E. Schurick, Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, said the decision affirms "what the governor has said all along: that there are certain controls on the bully, Rambo-style tactics auditors have used in the past."

The dispute came to a head earlier this month when the governor ordered Cabinet secretaries to be less cooperative with legislative auditors.

The order stemmed from disputes over past audits and a recent incident in which auditors were found looking through files in the secretary of state's office before the staffers had reported to work.

Mr. Ratchford said the auditors had followed normal procedure in that case but had simply shown up a few minutes early.

The earlier disputes included a recent one involving the governor's mansion, an unfavorable review of the department of juvenile services and the governor's claim that auditors' criticisms were politically motivated.

Mr. Curran's legal opinion, which was requested by both legislative leaders and the governor, states that auditors should conduct their reviews during regular business hours, but it passed no judgment on the latest episode.

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