In his campaign for Spokane County auditor, Republican Leonard Christian has been loudly critical of incumbent Democrat Vicky Dalton’s oversight of elections.
That’s only one of the auditor’s four major responsibility areas, but Christian says he emphasizes it because so many voters tell him they’re concerned about the security of their ballots. And he warns that there is tremendous potential for fraud in that arena.
Christian’s view contrasts sharply with that of Nick Handy, state director of elections. And Handy works for one of Christian’s fellow Republicans, Secretary of State Sam Reed. Dalton’s office does such an exemplary job of managing elections, Handy says, that it serves as a resource for surrounding counties and a model for out-of-state visitors here to study sound election practices. Dalton’s own county elections supervisor, Mike McLaughlin, was honored as statewide elections employee of the year, and Dalton is president-elect of the state auditors’ association.
Yes, the Spokane County auditor’s first term (1999-2002) was marred by difficulties involving elections, but none involved fraud, and her performance has improved steadily – as Handy’s praise demonstrates. Most important, county voters have twice re-elected her.
The auditor is also responsible for vehicle registration, recording of legal documents and, notably, financial services. The office maintains hundreds of funds for the county and for many junior taxing districts that operate schools and provide fire, water, cemetery and other services.
That’s why Dalton’s status as a certified public accountant and her degrees in accounting and computer information management are so well suited to a job that involves safeguarding public funds. She was hired by the county in 1985 as an internal auditor, or “money hawk,” and quickly proved her worth by tightening up accounting procedures to track employees’ travel and absenteeism more accurately, among other reforms.
Christian is a Realtor and retired Air Force noncommissioned officer whose military duties included overseeing a variety of substantial equipment and operations involving millions of dollars. Since retiring he has taken an accounting class from Embry-Riddle University (through Whitworth University) and received an A. He’s an affable and earnest candidate, but his credentials don’t suit the position as well as Dalton’s.
On one issue he has a valid point, having criticized her practice of sending out official correspondence, including ballots, with her own name prominently displayed in the return address. She isn’t the only public official who does it, and the criticism has some merit, but it’s something that can be corrected.
Dalton is a proven auditor who has shepherded Spokane County through tremendous cultural and technological changes. She successfully met the challenges of an unprecedented mayoral recall election and the recounts demanded in the 6th Legislative District because of a 17-vote difference in a 2008 House race.
In a demanding office with multiple sets of responsibilities, voters should celebrate Dalton’s success and reward her with their ballots.