SUSQUEHANNA, Pa. -- State Rep. John Maher wasn't about to let anyone watch the debate Friday among candidates for auditor general without learning of his accounting background -- and he even got his opponent, Rep. Eugene DePasquale, talking about it.
Mr. Maher, a Republican from Upper St. Clair, and Mr. DePasquale, a Democrat who grew up in Pittsburgh and lives in York County, met with Libertarian candidate Betsy Summers of Wilkes-Barre in the exchange at Widener University School of Law. Each made his case for election to the statewide office responsible for examining the finances of state agencies, school districts and other entities receiving state money.
At every turn, Mr. Maher spoke of his experience in accounting, from his certification as a public accountant to his role founding the auditing firm Maher Duessel.
"It's pretty clear that I am an auditor, and that I like to audit, and I've got 30 years of auditing and I was trained as an auditor, I went to school to be an auditor, I've been an auditor," Mr. Maher said before posing a question to one of his opponents. "When I'm auditor general I'm really going to be the auditor general. Now I would ask Gene, if you're auditor general, who's going to be doing the auditing part of it?"
Mr. DePasquale, who introduced himself as the first legislator to post his expenses online, responded that he has experience containing costs and finding waste while working for the City of York, the state Department of Environmental Protection and in the Legislature. Given a chance to query Mr. Maher, he spoke of accomplishments of recent auditors general who were not accountants.
"Since none of them were CPAs, what did they do wrong in not being a CPA that they should have done?" he said.
Mr. Maher gave credit to the recent officeholders, but he suggested that with professional expertise, they might have uncovered more.
"We can't really answer the question of what was not discovered in those years," Mr. Maher said.
Ms. Summers, introduced as a saleswoman for a veterinary supply company, argued that Mr. Maher and Mr. DePasquale have too many political connections to serve as the state's fiscal watchdog.
"Do you think that they're going to do something that will harm the Republican coalition or the Democrat coalition?" she said. "No they won't. Those items will not be audited. With me, I will audit everybody, everyone. I will have no distinctions. You can count on me to be totally independent."
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141.