State leaders split on need for auditor to tackle secrecy issues in Kansas

Kansas has not had a state auditor since the 1970s, but several candidates for governor think it might be time to bring the position back in a state rife with transparency problems.

Democrats Josh Svaty and Carl Brewer said Monday they would like to create a statewide office to look into complaints about shady government practices. And Republican candidate Ed O’Malley suggested that Kansas could “try out” an auditor.

Their statements came in response to The Kansas City Star’s recent series on secrecy in Kansas government and an editorial on Sunday calling for a state auditor whose duties would include probing agencies that skirt transparency laws.

“I believe an open and accessible government begins with leaders who are willing to listen to each other and all Kansans to find solutions that work for everyone,” said Svaty, a former state secretary of agriculture from Ellsworth. “A state auditor will provide an unbiased leader for all Kansans to turn to with their concerns about their government.”

Brewer said that while he supports the concept of a state auditor, he is concerned about insulating the office from political pressure.

“Would the state auditor be protected from the whims of different administrations or majorities in the legislature?” said Brewer, a former Wichita mayor. “We currently fail to fund our schools properly despite a constitutional requirement. How would funding be ensured?”

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