Initiative started to make State Auditor independent from Executive, Legislative branches

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Even though legislators finished their biennial session in April, the issue of the State Auditor’s budget followed them for most of 2019. Lawmakers put in language that many interpreted as an attempt to limit the power of auditor Josh Gallion, who has put out numerous audits finding issues of conflicts of interest and procurement throughout the state.

The language sparked post-session meetings with legislators and even an attempt to refer the measure to the voters. That attempt failed to get enough signatures by the required deadline, but another person says he’s working on a constitutional measure to make the State Auditor’s Office separate from the Executive and Legislative branches.

Charles Tuttle says he’s leading the measure because he feels the auditor has been unfairly attacked for doing his job.

“Almost every audit he’s done has had problems. We’ve got some serious issues in state government with the people’s money,” said Tuttle.

The measure would remove the legislature’s responsibility to fund the Auditor’s office, instead giving the department one-quarter of a percent (0.25 percent) of the state’s general fund to carry out operations. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the auditor’s appropriation number would be $12 million of the state’s $4.8 billion over the two-year biennium. The current General Fund appropriation for the Auditor’s Office is $10.12 million.

“I really want the auditor [Josh Gallion] to be able to do his job and not have to worry about people coming after him for political bias,” said Tuttle.

We reached out to Josh Gallion for a comment on the measure. He said he is aware of it, but isn’t involved with it and is focused on doing his job. Tuttle says this measure goes beyond Gallion himself.

“This is about making an auditor independent, whether it’s Josh Gallion or some other person who is elected auditor,” said Tuttle.

Tuttle is working to get the measure on the November 2020 ballot.