Otto to press audit-law appeal this week

State Auditor Rebecca Otto will file a petition this week with the Minnesota Supreme Court, asking for review of a law allowing counties to hire private accountants for financial evaluations done.

In May, the state Court of Appeals upheld the 2015 law as constitutional in a 2-1 ruling. The majority judges said Otto hadn't surrendered authority because she retained the power to set standards for audits and could reject audits it found inferior.

The third-term DFLer said she still believes the new law undermined the constitutional role of her office.

“It’s my duty and obligation to go to the Supreme Court to make sure I’ve seen this all the way through,” she said. “The courts have affirmed that auditing counties is a core function of this constitutional office, which we’ve been saying all along, and that there is a true controversy here.”

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She said her petition will be filed Thursday. The high court has no obligation to take the case.

Otto, who is running for governor rather than re-election in 2018, has been criticized for mounting legal bills in the case. She has retained a private law firm to press her case.

When Otto announced her intentions to appeal, House State Government Finance Committee Chairwoman Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, said pursuing the case further would only “waste taxpayer dollars.”

Otto said it’s time for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the law itself and the process the Legislature used to pass it. The measure was included in a budget bill hashed out by a House-Senate conference committee that included Anderson late in the 2015 session.

“(The Supreme Court) is a proper place to take a dispute like this,” Otto said. “And the states that have had their authority diminished in this way. They have cronyism, they have corruption and the money leaks all over the place. And that is not a Minnesota we’re used to. It’s not a Minnesota we’ll recognize. So, this is a fight worth having.”