Jim Zeigler: Gumption – How to still make a difference despite Montgomery circumstances

Alabama state capital

When I became your State auditor nine months ago, I discovered obstacles to my plans for better accountability of how state government uses your money. Here are five:

  1. No accountability for missing state property. When the auditor’s office completes an audit of a state agency and reports missing property, there is no accountability. No recovery. No enforcement. The auditor’s office itself has no enforcement authority. Sadly, we are dependent on the attorney general’s office for enforcement. We send a copy of the report of missing property to the AG, never to be heard from again. The AG takes no action against the state officials responsible for the missing property. Looking back over five years of state auditor reports, it appears that the AG has never held a single person accountable and has never recovered even one item of state property. This is a major flaw in the state auditing process. Maybe I should have run for AG.
  2. The Governor does almost the opposite of what he campaigned on. Gov. Robert Bentley campaigned for re-election on “no new taxes.” Within days after winning the November general election, he started talking about needing new taxes. He passed three new taxes but is still asking for more, much more. He had said he was against the liberal Common Core in our education system, but he has not taken any steps to repeal it. He had said he would not allow ALDOT to harm the historical North Eufaula Avenue median where the treasured antebellum homes are. Within days of winning re-election, he and ALDOT decided to four-lane North Eufaula Avenue, taking 6 feet along the median and likely killing the oak trees.
  3. The Governor is cut off by a circle of advisers – bad advisers.
    Gov. Bentley does not listen to you, and he does not listen to me. He listens to a group of staff, supporters, lobbyists and special interest politicos. They have him surrounded and cut off from the normal people. The Bentley bunch are the sorriest, know-it-all, self-serving, we-know-best mafia he could assemble. We would all be much better off he would fire the whole bunch, go out to Wal-Mart, and hire the first five people to come out of Wal-Mart.
  4. I would have to operate the state auditor’s office with no receptionist, no secretary, no investigator and no lawyer.
    My assistant Hope Curry, the professional auditing staff, and I are getting the job done despite no receptionist, secretary, investigator or lawyer. Our audits are all current. We have improved the auditing system and completed audits of 68 state agencies already. Even after starting with this bare-bones operation, we suffered another 25 percent cut in our budget, about double the cuts to other agencies. I think I may have irritated some folks on Goat Hill.
  5. A problem with my favorite restaurants in Montgomery.
    After I won the election last year, I told a friend in Montgomery that I was looking forward to coming back there and enjoying my old favorite restaurants. The Elite. The Sahara. The Red Bird Inn. The Green Lantern. The Pub at Montgomery Mall. Two Sisters. Joe’s Delicatessen on Fairview. TP Crockmier’s.  Igor’s. Charlie’s. The Capitol Grill. The Beverly. My friend replied that I was going to be disappointed – they are all closed. Without my patronage, they all went under. I actually have been surprised to learn lots of other things in my nine months as state auditor – mostly adversities. Maybe I should write a book, “Gumption: How to Still Make a Difference Despite Montgomery Circumstances.”
Jim Zeigler is the Alabama State Auditor. You can follow him on his Facebook page Zeigler “Waste Cutter”.


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