Some State Lawmakers Attempt To Reduce State Auditor's Power
Posted February 9, 2005 12:32 p.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Less than a month after Les Merritt was sworn in as North Carolina's first Republican state auditor, Democrats in the state Senate want to restrict his access to the General Assembly's computer system.
"We don't want anybody reading our e-mails without our knowledge," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.
A House bill would take that a step further by limiting the auditor's access to computers throughout state government.
"There are confidential e-mails the governor probably has on his computer, other Cabinet secretaries," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.
Merritt said his department needs access to computers to perform financial audits to make sure taxpayer money is being spent wisely.
"I don't think they understand the process," he said. "We can't let something happen that would weaken the auditor's department."
Merritt believes some Democrats are nervous because they have never dealt with a Republican auditor. Other Republicans are more skeptical.
"I think you've got to understand that politics are involved in just about everything that's done in the Legislative building," said Minority Leader Rep. Phil Berger.
Some Democrats said the bill is not based on politics. The bill's sponsors said they would have pushed for the restrictions no matter who the auditor is.
Merritt said he has already expressed his concerns about the legislation to House Speaker Jim Black. Lawmakers' e-mails are public record.