Qualifications top list of issues for auditor general candidates
By Brad Bumsted| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
HARRISBURG — Two lawmakers vying to become the state's fiscal watchdog are trading barbs over their qualifications for the job and the 2001 pension increase for state employees.
Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, a legislator since 1997, contends Democratic Rep. Eugene DePasquale, of York County, is a career politician without the necessary experience to be auditor general. They face Betsy Summers, a Libertarian from Wilkes-Barre, in the Nov. 6 election.
“I'm the only candidate who, out in the real world, created jobs. My opponent has been a career politician. He was a patronage employee at the state and local level,” said Maher, who founded a private-sector auditing firm.
DePasquale said the ideal candidate needs “tenaciousness and independence.”
“I have both of those,” said DePasquale, whose Western Pennsylvania roots include graduating from Central Catholic High School in Oakland. “I'm proud of everything I've accomplished in public service and would not change a thing.”
He worked as economic development director for the City of York and later as a deputy secretary at the Department of Environmental Protection under former Gov. Ed Rendell.
DePasquale called Maher's vote for the pension increase “a huge, huge mistake.” The law increased pensions 50 percent for most legislators and 25 percent for public school and other state employees. The pension system faces multibillion-dollar shortfalls.
“In 2001, the state pension systems were overfunded,” Maher said. No one could have foreseen the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or the recession that triggered the shortfalls, he said. The 2001 law required increased member contributions.
“I voted to increase my contribution by 50 percent to 7.5 percent,” Maher said. “If I had perfect knowledge, I would have made a different decision.”
Maher wants to become the first auditor elected to the post. “I believe Pennsylvania deserves to have an auditor as auditor general. I'm a CPA. Since 1980, I've been auditing, writing about auditing and teaching auditing.”
DePasquale, an attorney, said Auditor General Jack Wagner and previous people in the post — Sen. Bob Casey, Barbara Hafer, and the late Gov. Robert P. Casey — are acclaimed as good auditors general and none was a Certified Public Accountant.
Summers said Maher would supervise, not audit. “It's a management position,” she said.
Summers, a businesswoman, said she is the candidate without major party ties who can be truly independent. “I'll be a hard-hearted and heavy-handed auditor general,” she said at a debate last month.
In a lower profile race, Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, a Republican, is trying to unseat incumbent Treasurer Rob McCord, a Democrat. Patricia Fryman, of Venango County, is on the ballot as a Libertarian candidate.
“I'm running for treasurer to bring a more disciplined approach to Pennsylvania's investments,” Vaughan said.
McCord said decades of business experience make the office a perfect fit for him. “Our team's successful track record in this important office illustrates that.”
Vaughan said she hasn't heard McCord “sounding the alarm” about the state's pension problems.
Spokesman Mark Nevins countered that McCord is “aggressive in his role as fiscal watchdog, calling out proposals that prioritize political expediency over long-term solutions. “
Fryman said she is beholden to no one. “I am running ... because I have a strong sense of duty to my state and my community. ...You cannot expect good government without making a personal effort.”
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.