By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Saturday, October 15, 2016, the first training program for volunteers to assist the State Auditor in fighting abuse in government was held in Clanton.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler said that the volunteers will gather right in the center of the State to train in how to research complaints received of government waste and corruption. The groups of volunteers met at 10 a.m. at Magic Valley Ranch outside Clanton. They received four hours of training and a lunch “at no expense to them and no expense to State taxpayers.”
Zeigler likens his all-volunteer army to “Nader’s Raiders,” the left-leaning group of reform-minded individuals led by Ralph Nader, except with a “constitutional conservative” twist.
Zeigler said that he plans to gather teams of “citizen/researchers” drawing mainly retired civil servants, accountants, attorneys, businesspeople and concerned citizens willing to lend a hand to independently investigate reports of governmental malfeasance or wrongdoing, something he says he hears complaints about “nearly every day.”
Zeigler said in a statement, “People email me, stop me in the grocery store, or stop by my office with a complaint about something that’s not right in government. Without a professional staff to look into all of them, this volunteer plan is the best way I can think of to research these complaints and separate the sheep from the goats.”
After a volunteer submits the final report, Zeigler will then recommend a course of action to rectify the complaint. That could be a lawsuit, a complaint to the State’s Ethic Commission, or even just a news report shining a light on a troublesome government practice to raise awareness and create more opportunity for public scrutiny.
Zeigler said, “Since I have been elected state auditor, I can use the legal rights of a taxpayer as well as the platform of the auditor.” Zeigler emphasizes that the volunteer program will be self-sufficient, able to proceed without a grant of authority or an appropriation from the State legislature.
When asked if he would like to see the program prescribed in State statute, Zeigler said he would rather the volunteer research remain simply a policy of the State auditor’s office, insulated from State House influence.
On most lists, Alabama is considered to be one of the most corrupt states in the country. Zeigler has filed a number of lawsuits seeking to stop the more flagrant examples of waste and abuse including: suing to stop Governor Robert Bentley (R) from spending tens of millions of dollars on an unbid contract to build a highly questionable luxury hotel and conference center on State Parkland; suing to block implementation of an unbid contract for tens of millions of dollars for highly questionable accounting software; and to prevent state agencies, like school boards, from taking tax dollars to pay for advertising and consultants to win public referendums. Zeigler while drawing a lot of attention to many of these shady deals and operating practices, has not had a lot of success in getting the courts to act. Most recently Zeigler has fought against another expensive unbid contract for the State Medicaid agency to pay for legal services to implement a controversial plan to reorganize the struggling State Medicaid agency into a managed care model run by service provider owned regional care organizations (RCOs).
Jim Zeigler has been highly critical of the Bentley administration and has called for the State legislature to rapidly impeach and remove the 73 year old Governor.