Legislative auditor seeks another six-year term

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles
Tom Scheck | MPR News 2011

Minnesota lawmakers are poised to reappoint Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles to another six-year term.

A subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission discussed the matter Thursday and voted to forward its recommendation to the full commission for action on Nov. 15.

Nobles, 72, was first appointed as legislative auditor in 1983. Over 36 years, he has largely defined the nonpartisan position. The Office of the Legislative Auditor conducts independent reviews of state agency finances and management.

Nobles told lawmakers that he wants to continue in the job.

“I don’t sit on high and manage the Office of the Legislative Auditor,” Nobles said. “I get down and do the work, and that’s the way at least I think I need to be as legislative auditor.”

The office has a financial audit division, headed by deputy Chris Buse, and a program evaluation division, headed by deputy Judy Randall. The panel also advanced the reappointment of both deputies.

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Nobles has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support at the state Capitol over the years. He has conducted numerous investigations into state government departments and programs, often highlighting questionable use of taxpayer money along the way.

Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, offered praise to Nobles.

“You’re highly qualified,” Koran said. “I think your staff and the operation of the organization reflect the tone in which you’ve set.”

But Nobles’ reappointment met resistance from one lawmaker on the panel, who also abstained from the vote.

Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, questioned Nobles’ neutrality on issues. She said she is troubled by what see views as “editorializing” in reports.

“Sometimes, very frankly, it feels to me as though you’re playing for headlines,” Liebling said.

Nobles responded that the language he uses in reports is often aimed at getting legislators to take notice of the problems he has found.

“I’m not looking for attention from the media,” Nobles said. “I’m looking for attention from you.”