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Rendell wants it both ways

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 10:24 p.m.

HARRISBURG - The Rendell administration says the state auditor general doesn't have the authority to conduct performance audits.

Performance audits are reviews that go beyond mere number-crunching; they look at how well a program operates. Are taxpayers getting what they paid for•

The auditor general, Robert P. Casey Jr., is an elected statewide official. He just happens to be the Democrat who lost to Gov. Ed Rendell in the bloody 2002 Democrat primary for governor.

Casey is trying to find out how well state and local police have kept track of child molesters under Megan's Law. But the state police and Rendell's lawyers put up a roadblock.

They said in court documents filed last Monday that the auditor general "does not have the power or duty to conduct performance audits under Pennsylvania law."

Kate Philips, Rendell's press secretary, contended the administration wasn't really trying to take away the auditor general's ability to conduct performance audits. She said performance audits are beneficial. She said the administration in this case was only trying to limit their scope.

Her spin contradicted statements made by Rendell's lawyers in a legal filing.

What counts is what's filed in court.

"They want it both ways," said Karen Walsh, Casey's press secretary. Casey put out a blistering statement Tuesday, saying the Rendell administration made a "blatant attempt" to stop Casey from auditing Megan's Law.

Legalese loophole

Following that flap, the Rendell administration filed another court paper Thursday saying it is not trying to block performance audits. But there was still a loophole in the legalese; apparently the administration still is asking the court to rule on the scope of the auditor general's powers.

It's yet another blunder by the Rendell administration. But what if the governor wins• He wants to protect the privacy rights of convicted child molesters?

The governor and auditor general square-off Tuesday in Commonwealth Court. Casey is scheduled to meet Monday with Rendell's Chief of Staff John Estey.

Casey needs addresses and release dates of child molesters to determine whether police are monitoring them. The administration contends that flies in the face of the Criminal Histories Record Information Act. That law provides only criminal justice agencies can view non-public information. Casey says he has no intention of improperly releasing information.

"Find me the taxpayer who believes the rights of convicted sexual offenders are more important than protecting children," Walsh said.

The attorney who filed the legal documents is Rendell's chief counsel, Leslie Anne Miller. On Thursday, Miller appeared with Casey at a news conference - three days after filing the first legal brief - where Casey announced results of a performance audit of the state's inspection of mammography facilities. They appeared together with other officials at Lankenau Hospital in Montgomery County.

Casey said the mammography monitoring is working fine.

Miller attended as honorary chair of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, days before she appears in court.

Talk about trying to have it both ways.

Is Rendell really trying to limit the power of the next auditor general in case a Republican is elected• Clearly, the governor's troops would not want a fiscal watchdog from the opposing party monitoring their every step.

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