Inquirer Editorial: Maher's experience an asset in auditor race

Posted: September 26, 2012

With a lawyer squaring off against a certified public accountant for auditor general, Pennsylvania voters can expect to hear a good deal of debate over whether the state's independent fiscal watchdog needs an accounting background.

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, 41, contends his experience as a Democratic legislator representing York, and earlier tenure at the state Department of Environmenal Protection, affords him a broad understanding of government budgets and programs.

By contrast, state Rep. John Maher, 53, an Allegheny County Republican, says his CPA credentials, and passion for doing the job, make him the best choice.

Both Maher and DePasquale offer impressive resumes, and have been welcome voices for reform, independence and, in particular, openness in government.

Also running is Libertarian Betsy Summers, a Wilkes-Barre businesswoman who ran in 2008.

The duties of the auditor general include a wide range of financial and performance reviews of state agencies, school districts, and public pension funds. The job is term-limited, with incumbent Jack Wagner now in his second and final four-year term.

What sounds like an unglamorous job nonetheless has produced insightful looks at critical problems facing the state, including Wagner's audit of safety in Philadelphia public schools.

DePasquale, who helped recruit wind-energy equipment maker Gamesa to the state while at DEP, says he would use the auditor's office to look at the safety of shale-gas operations, whether state jobs programs work, and school employees' health-care costs.

Maher, who as a legislator bucked political insiders by pushing for a rewrite of the state's open records law, says he would use his accounting skills to install systems that would prevent questionable spending before it occurs, rather than revealing it later through performance audits.

His auditing background gives JOHN MAHER the edge. With Maher, voters can be assured of having an auditor general who needs no on-the-job training. He even likes wearing a green eyeshade.

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