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state auditor

Commerce Dept. audit debated

Nov 7, 2019
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The director of North Dakota’s Commerce Department called it an “honest mistake.”

Michelle Kommer talked to the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee about a state audit finding that $854,000 in spending was improperly charged to the 2017-2019 biennium budget. The money was part of a grant to Grand Sky, the Grand Forks-based home for unmanned aerial vehicles. The money was to go to construction at the Grand Sky site. But because of bad weather, construction was delayed – and the money didn’t go out until July of 2019.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says a portion of the state Auditor’s budget requiring permission of the Legislature’s Audit and Fiscal Review Committee before the Auditor does certain kinds of audits is ‘likely unconstitutional.”

In a formal opinion, requested by State Auditor Josh Gallion, Stenehjem says the language diminishes the Auditor’s independence, and entrusts an “inherently executive power” in the Legislative branch. He said if a court were to rule, it would likely find it to be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.