Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano said Friday that the House won’t meet with state Auditor Diana DiZoglio about an audit DiZoglio has launched into the Legislature.
DiZoglio, a Democrat who served as both a state representative and senator, said she is forging ahead anyway, She has described the audit as the first such review in a century of the Legislature that she hopes will 'increase transparency, accountability and equity in an area of state government that has been completely ignored.'
Mariano said in a letter to DiZoglio Friday that the House's financial accounts are already public.
Any 'performance assessment' by DiZoglio of House actions including 'active and pending legislation, committee appointments, legislative rules, and its policies and procedures' would violate basic separation-of-powers principles, he said.
Any such assessment is the sole responsibility of the House, he said, adding that voters are the final decision-makers of the performance of elected officials.
'Therefore, given that your attempt to conduct a performance audit of the House of Representatives exeeds your legal authority and is unconsitutional, your request to meet to begin such an audit is respectfully denied,' he wrote.
DiZoglio said she is moving forward with her review.
'I find it disappointing that the Speaker is fighting an audit of what is happening in the people’s house, where the people’s business is conducted, using the people’s money,' she said in a written statement. 'We are not asking for permission and will continue conducting our audit as planned to help increase transparency, accountability and equity for everyday families.'
DiZoglio had earlier said the audit is critical, given how much legislative work is conducted out of sight.
The 200-member Legislature is exempt from the state’s open meeting law. Democrats — who hold overwhelming majorities in both chambers — routinely hold closed-door caucuses to discuss legislation away from the ears of the press and public.
'Historically, the Legislature has been a closed-door operation, where committee votes have been hidden from the general public, and legislation has been voted on in the dark of night,' DiZoglio said when she announced the audit.
Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka has also cited the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
Under Senate rules, the chamber undergoes an audit every fiscal year by a public accounting firm experienced in auditing governmental entities and makes that audit public, she said.
Senate business is also made public through journals, calendars and recordings of each session, Spilka said.