The elected status of the Alabama State Auditor is threatened by a plan now circulating in Montgomery, and current auditor Jim Zeigler does not take kindly to it.
The bill — HB 432 by Rep. Paul Beckman, a Pratville Republican and sometimes ally of Gov. Robert Bentley — would alter the offices of State Auditor and Agriculture Commissioner, making them appointed by the governor’s office rather than elected statewide as state law currently provides.
Zeigler, a Republican, has been a harsh critic of the Bentley administration in his tenure as State Auditor since taking office in 2015. He contends the move is retribution for his criticism on issues like taxes, state parks, and a move to spend some $1.5 million on renovating the abandoned governor’s residence in Gulf Shores for what Zeigler has characterized as personal reasons.
Zeigler said the inclusion of the Ag Commissioner as part of the Cabinet shakeup is simply window dressing, “a strategy to make it look like they are not targeting me.”
“I believe that I am the main target of this legislation,” said Zeigler of the proposal, taken up for the first time last week by the Constitution, Campaign and Elections Committee.
He added that the move was bad policy because it would remove the independent oversight his office – a unique, ombudsman-like position – by making the office subject to the governor’s approval.
“Having the Governor appoint the State Auditor would be the fox guarding the hen house,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler also issued an appeal to supporters via Facebook and a news release, asking opponents of the bill to seek out members of the CCE committee and voice their concerns.
“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,” Zeigler urged over the weekend.