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Opinion >  Editorial

Pat McCarthy is safe choice for state auditor

The state auditor’s race presents an opportunity to rescue a vital agency from the scandal that followed its current leader into office. We interviewed three qualified candidates who are vying to replace Troy Kelley, who took an extended leave to battle legal charges surrounding a mortgage business he ran.

Kelley was acquitted of one charge and the jury deadlocked on others. He is not running for re-election, and federal prosecutors are taking another crack at him.

The auditor’s office is supposed to root out wrongdoing, not be the focus of it, so voters have an important task ahead. After the Kelley fiasco, we hope voters play it safe. The candidate with the best track record in public office management is Pat McCarthy, and she gets our endorsement.

McCarthy, a Democrat, is finishing her second term as Pierce County executive. Before that she was the Pierce County auditor and deputy auditor and a school board director for the Tacoma School District. She was also an administrator for the University of Washington, Tacoma.

As the Pierce County executive, she has managed a staff and budget that is larger than the state auditor’s office. A commitment to open government is crucial for the auditor, and the Washington Coalition for Open Government honored her for adopting a policy of retaining county emails for six years, rather than two weeks.

McCarthy says it is crucial that government trust be restored. She wants to keep a close watch on transportation projects, an area where money has been squandered in recent years. She has gained the backing of former Gov. Chris Gregoire and shows the same passion for public service. Locally, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton has endorsed her.

Attorney Jeff Sprung, a Seattle Democrat, has an impressive background in the private sector rooting out financial mismanagement and protecting whistleblowers. For someone who has never held public office, he has grabbed some impressive endorsements, including former Auditor Brian Sonntag and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Sprung is smart and committed to ferreting out corrupt and wasteful practices, and he wants to extend audits to businesses that contract with the state. But he has not managed a government agency. Turning to him at a time when the office desperately needs stability may be a risk.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, a Republican from Federal Way, ran for this office four years ago as a Democrat. He has extensive experience in training auditors and directing auditing committees in the Legislature.

He intensely promotes the Baldridge auditing system and would want to train state auditors in that method. However, state auditors may not be thrilled with him, after he called the office a “laughingstock” during the Kelley scandal. In fact, the agency did some impressive work, even as the Legislature sought to siphon its budget.

We urge voters to turn to Pat McCarthy. She’s the safe choice.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”

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