Burrage asserts credentials, professionalism in Auditor & Inspector race

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 12-Oct-2010

In an interview on Tuesday (October 12) with CapitolBeatOK, Oklahoma Auditor & Inspector Steve Burrage was asked what he considered the three key issues in the November 2 election.

Burrage, a Democrat running for the first time, responded: “The three key issues in the race for Auditor are qualifications, running an efficient and effective office, and being professional not political with this important office. 

“The voters have told me they want someone who is qualified to serve as State Auditor and has the work experience to back it up. I bring over 35 years of accounting, auditing, and banking experience to the office. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in accounting, passed the CPA exam, and become a partner in a CPA firm. Later I took over a failing small town bank and turned it into one of the most respected and successful small town banks its size in the state. I have taken the many proven successful business practices I have learned throughout my career and implemented them in the Auditor’s office helping the office perform more effectively and efficiently than ever before.

“Second, voters want someone who will run the State Auditor’s office in an effective and efficient manner.  When I first stepped into the office I found a political dumping ground. I have gotten rid of all the ‘political deadwood’ and now have a staff full of qualified professionals. If you’re going to work for me and the taxpayers in this office, you are going to be qualified. I also inherited a backlog of audits. To solve this problem I have implemented the use of new software that helps speed up the audit process. This new technology has been helping us catch up on the inherited backlog of audits and it has made the audit process as a whole more efficient for all future audits.

“Third, voters want someone who will always remain professional and who will not give in to political pressure. I was appointed straight out of the private sector and consider myself to be a businessman, not a politician. As a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants I adhere to a strict professional code of conduct which I very seriously apply to my job as State Auditor. That code of conduct focuses on Independence, Integrity, and Judgment.”

Burrage, seeking election in his own right after coming into the office as a result of Governor Brad Henry’s appointment, continued, “I will never sacrifice my Independence, Integrity, or Judgment for anyone or anything. I have experienced political pressure during some of my audits, but I always go back to my professional code of conduct and choose the professional and ethical action even when it is not ‘politically smart.’  When I conduct an audit I go in with my eyes wide open and report exactly what is found because that is what the tax payers demand and deserve.”

Burrage, who began 2010 with audits of public school districts which he touted as demonstrative of “fraud, waste, and abuse”, is trailing Republican nominee Gary Jones in recent public opinion surveys. The SoonerPoll released in Sunday’s editions of the Tulsa World found Burrage at 35%, behind 41% for the Republican, Gary Jones. However, 24% of the electorate remained undecided.

The Burrage campaign began a series of television advertisements in recent days, assailing the Republican over his clashes with politicians when he was county commissioner in Comanche County. Jones has vigorously defended himself against the assertions in Burrage’s advertisements.

Veteran state analyst Mike McCarville wrote this week on his blog: “The attack commercial is a high-risk strategy by Burrage; not well known to voters, he runs the risk of defining himself as a political mud-slinger.”

On Tuesday, CapitolBeatOK asked Burrage if he had the resources to reverse the trend in the latest opinion surveys and win the election. He responded, “I believe we’ve made the right decisions with how to spend our resources. And once the voters are informed about my opponent and myself, I feel they will vote for me on November 2nd.”

Burrage was asked why voters should retain him in the job and not go with a guy who has run two strong prior races.  He answered, “Voters should vote for me on November 2nd because I am passionate about working hard for the taxpayers – I want to ensure that their hard-earned tax dollars are spent properly — free of waste, fraud and abuse.

“During my time as State Auditor and Inspector, I have already uncovered millions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse across the state – I want to continue my work on behalf of the taxpayers with another term in office. I am running to ensure that the office is held to the high level of accountability and professionalism that the taxpayers demand and deserve. During my time as State Auditor and Inspector I have gotten rid of all the unqualified political hires in the office and have brought together a staff of qualified professionals — I want to continue this level of professionalism I have established in the Auditor’s office.”

Burrage concluded, “Not only is my staff highly qualified and professional, so am I – in addition to my two years in this office, I bring over 35 years of experience in accounting, auditing, and banking and I am the first CPA to serve as State Auditor in 30 years.”