Minnesota auditor sues over law allowing private audits

State Auditor Rebecca Otto
Minnesota lawmakers passed a measure last year allowing counties to hire private firms for financial audits. State Auditor Rebecca Otto criticized the law and has now filed a lawsuit challenging it.
Tom Scheck | MPR News 2015

Updated 1 p.m. | Posted 11:09 a.m.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto has sued over a new law giving counties the ability to get private audits.

The Democratic official filed the lawsuit Thursday in Ramsey County District Court. Otto wants the law declared unconstitutional.

She says the law pushed primarily by Republicans but accepted by legislative Democrats last year intrudes on power vested in her office.

The GOP says counties can save taxpayer money by getting private audits of their books.

House State Government Finance Committee Chair Sarah Anderson said it's unfortunate Otto decided to sue over an audit law that puts counties on par with most cities and school districts in their ability to seek private reviews.

"I think it's really frivolous and unfortunately it is the taxpayers at the end of the day that are forced to pay the bill," said Anderson, R-Plymouth.

Otto, who ran up more than $100,000 in legal fees as she weighed a possible constitutional challenge, says 47 counties have already given notice that they may opt for private audits by refusing to sign three-year agreements with her office.

She says the outsourcing law will force layoffs and gut a primary responsibility of her elected office. The lawsuit says 60 percent of the office's budget is derived from county audit fees.

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