By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Even though Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) is facing a criminal investigation and an Ethics Commission investigation. Even though two of the last four elected Governors have actually been convicted of crimes, Bentley’s allies in the legislature are still pushing a bill that would strip the people of Alabama with the power to select their own auditor. House Bill 432 would give Bentley and future Governors the power to appoint the auditor….a constitutionally elected position that has been elected by the people since the 1901 Constitution was written.
Current Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler opposes the power grab by Governor Bentley and proponents for making the position of Governor even more powerful.
HB432 is up for public hearing today at 9:00 a.m. in room 123 of the Statehouse before the House Constitution and Elections Committee.
Auditor Zeigler said, “If you can get there, please come, sign the speaker sheet, and speak out against HB432, the power grab against our Peoples State Auditor. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”
House Bill 432 is sponsored by Rep. Paul Beckman (R-Prattville).
State Auditor Jim Zeigler said in a statement, “This change would represent a major power grab for the Executive branch and the Governor’s office.”
The bill as introduced also targets the Alabama the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries. Zeigler believes that he is the target of the attack and says the the bill’s inclusion of the Agriculture Commissioner “could be a strategy to make it look like they are not targeting me. I believe that I am the main target of this legislation.”
Zeigler has been an outspoken critic of Bentley during his first 14 months as State Auditor. Zeigler said, “Having the Governor appoint the State Auditor would be the fox guarding the hen house.”
Zeigler was recently featured on NBC’s ‘Today’ program filing an Alabama Ethics Commission report against Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Bentley’s alleged mistress, top political advisor, Mrs. Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The House Constitution, Campaign and Elections Committee could vote on the bill as early as today. A favorable report would mean that it could be before the full House as early as Thursday.
Jim Zeigler is urging citizens to contact their state representatives, especially if he or she is a member of the Constitution, Campaign and Elections Committee. Zeigler said, “Simply ask the Committee member to vote ‘No’ on HB432, and keep the State Auditor an elected office that represents the people of Alabama instead of the interests of the Governor.”
Jim Zeigler was elected as Alabama State Auditor in November 2014. His wife Jackie Zeigler recently was elected as the Republican nominee to the state school board. The Democrat has dropped out of the race and has praised Mrs. Zeigler.
This is not the first time that the State Auditor has been targeted by the establishment in Montgomery. During the General Fund Budget debate over the summer, enemies of the independent auditor’s office proposed a 63 percent cut in funding for the office, and would cripple his department. Zeigler said that would have cuts the auditor’s budget from $1,072,000 to $400,000, (a 63 percent cut). Most other agencies, including many that are not constitutional functions, were cut about 10 percent in that version of the budget. Zeigler said, “Just the overhead costs of rent, phones, Internet and software eat up almost the entire $400,000 and leave no auditors on staff. This drastic cut is not designed to save money. It is designed to quiet the State Auditor.” Eventually the legislature relented on the Draconian cuts; though the Auditor’s office still received triple the cut that the other state general fund agencies received.
In the 2013 legislative session, some GOP legislators proposed legislation to fold the auditor’s office under the office of the Examiner of Pubic Accounts; which answers directly to the state legislature. This is ironic because the legislature created the office of Examiner of Public Accounts to take those auditing duties away from the elected Auditor’s office in 1939. The Auditor’s office presently is responsible for maintaining an inventory of the other state agencies. An effort by Rep. Ed Henry to fold the Office of Examiner of Public
Account back under the elected Auditor failed during the 2014 legislative session.