Thursday, September 14, 2000

Auditor wants full authority

Says pop reviews benefit taxpayers

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — State Auditor Jim Petro said Wednesday that he is supporting legislation that would give him full authority to conduct special audits on agencies that receive taxpayer money.

        Mr. Petro said the identical bills sponsored by Rep. Jim Mettler of Toledo and Sen. Jay Hottinger of Newark, both Republicans, are needed in light of a recent federal court ruling.

        That questioned Mr. Petro's authority to conduct audits besides the scheduled two-year audits conducted on all public agencies.

        “If public officials are going to cheat, they are going to get caught through special audits,” Mr. Petro said. Current law does not specifically mandate special audits when wrongdoing is suspected, but Mr. Petro believes he has the authority.

        In June, U.S. District Judge George Smith asked the Ohio Supreme Court to clarify state law regarding auditors' investigations. The day after Judge Smith threw out a finding for recovery that Mr. Petro had issued, Judge Smith reversed his decision.

        His original ruling came as he dismissed an attempt by state Attorney General Betty Montgomery to recover $2.3 million from a Columbus construction company. A special audit by Mr. Petro said Gilbane Building Co. overcharged a Youngstown-area water district.

        Judge Smith's decision meant Ms. Montgomery's lawsuit was temporarily suspended.


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