Bryan seeks state auditor's office so he can close it
by Tim Lockette
tlockette@annistonstar.com
Jun 04, 2013 | 5425 views |  0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ray Bryan in his Anniston office in 2008. (File photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star)
Ray Bryan in his Anniston office in 2008. (File photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star)
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Local lawyer Ray Bryan is running for the office of state auditor — in hopes of abolishing it.

"I want my portrait to be the last one on the wall, before they take them all down," said Bryan a Cleburne County resident with an Anniston law practice, who announced his run Tuesday.

Bryan, a Republican and former candidate for a circuit court judgeship, is one of the first candidates to announce a run for statewide office in 2014. His primary opponent, state employee and Pike Road resident Adam Thompson, announced a run for state auditor in November.

Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley said that while no one has officially qualified to run in the Democratic primary, Birmingham resident Miranda Joseph is seeking the nomination. Joseph ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic nominee in 2010.

Current Auditor Samantha Shaw, a Republican, can't run again due to term limits. Attempts to reach her Tuesday were unsuccessful. The auditor’s office keeps an inventory of all "personal property" items — office equipment, vehicles and so on — purchased by the state at a cost of more than $500.

Bryan said that if elected, he'd work with legislators on an amendment to the Constitution of 1901 that would abolish the office, placing the office's employees under the auspices of the Examiners of Public Accounts, the audit agency within the legislative branch.

Bryan said that while the inventory of state equipment is important, there's no good reason to place the office under an elected constitutional officer.

"It's going to save the state almost a million dollars a year," Bryan said of the proposed change.

The state auditor's office received $924,000 from the state in 2014, according to state budget documents. State records show the agency spending about $830,000 per year in 2012 and 2011.

Bryan's opponent Adam Thompson, a former employee of the auditor's office, said there is indeed a need for an independent auditor.

"The auditor and the examiners have different functions," said Thompson, who now works in the Secretary of State's office. The examiners' office does audits of state agencies, Thompson said, while the auditor's office primarily inventories state equipment.

"If somebody's looking over your shoulder, you're less likely to buy something you don't need," Thompson said.

He said he hoped to cut costs by upgrading technology in the agency.

Bryan said his effort to cut the auditor’s office would fit well with the current trend toward consolidating state agencies. In the session that ended in May, the Alabama Legislature approved bills that would reorganize state-level law enforcement agencies, its information technology services and other agencies.

An Anniston Republican, Sen. Del Marsh, was the driving force behind those reorganization efforts. But Marsh’s spokesman Derek Trotter said Tuesday that eliminating the auditor’s office was never on the Senate’s reorganization agenda — possibly because the agency is so small.

“We wanted to go after maximum potential cost savings, so we looked at the larger agencies,” he said.

The auditor’s race isn’t Bryan’s first shot at public office. He ran for a Circuit Court judgeship in 2008, winning the popular vote in the Republican primary. There were no Democratic candidates in the race, but Bryan’s election was later decertified because he was late filing a campaign finance report. Bryan said his late filing in 2008 was due to unclear instructions on filing deadlines and the delay caused when state offices closed for Jefferson Davis’s birthday, a state holiday.

A Clay County native and Army veteran, Bryan lives in Cleburne County near Oxford’s city limits and has had a law practice in Anniston for 13 years. He announced his candidacy by e-mail Tuesday morning, and held a campaign kickoff event at Oxford Civic Center Tuesday evening.

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.
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