Voters face a conundrum in the North Dakota auditor’s race. The GOP incumbent, Josh Gallion, has provoked sharp criticisms even from fellow Republicans for his clumsy handling of several high-profile audits.
Gallion, elected to the office in 2016, has been busy grabbing headlines. He has referred his findings to prosecutors following three audits he determined showed potential noncompliance with the law.
No charges resulted in any of the cases. But we’re troubled by what happened, especially in the audit concerning the Department of Commerce’s handling of the rebranding and introduction of the state’s new “Be Legendary” logo.
Auditors found that the department incorrectly assigned $850,000 in costs to the wrong biennium, which former Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer said was an honest mistake.
Kommer, who recently left the post, ended up with legal bills of almost $10,000, and the state has refused to reimburse her for considerable costs she incurred because of her role. In a recent legislative meeting, Kommer ripped Gallion, accusing him of having a “character problem” for refusing to meet with her and spending taxpayer money to “make a stage for himself.”
But Kommer wasn’t alone. GOP committee members criticized Gallion, saying he made too much of a supposed violation and acted outside his role in determining they were potentially criminal.
This conduct by a state auditor is unprecedented. It’s also wildly inappropriate.
We urge voters to retire Gallion from office. He has elevated flashiness over substance, leading many to suspect he has his eyes on higher office. Instead, they should give Democrat Patrick Hart a chance. He’s in private business, but has worked in auditing roles for the state Department of Agriculture and Public Service Commission and says he would take a less adversarial approach to the office. We hope he can restore the auditor’s office to the respected but low-key watchdog it had been for decades.
In the contest for the open North Dakota treasurer’s office, we endorse Republican Thomas Beadle. Beadle, a commercial real estate broker in Fargo, has served in the North Dakota House of Representatives.
A common-sense conservative, Beadle’s business background and legislative experience make him well grounded for the office of treasurer.
In the race for a seat on the Public Service Commission, voters should give Republican Brian Kroshus a second term. Kroshus, another common-sense conservative, is chairman of the three-member commission, which regulates public utilities and has an important role in overseeing energy development.
With a business background in newspaper publishing, agriculture and energy, Kroshus was appointed to the commission in 2017, then elected in 2018. Born in Fargo, educated at North Dakota State University, Kroshus has demonstrated a thorough grasp of the issues before the PSC. Voters should keep him in office.
This endorsement represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.