TALLAHASSEE — Chief financial officer candidate Loranne Ausley has called for making the state's internal watchdogs more independent.
She has put forward a proposal to require the Florida Cabinet to approve the selection of each state agency's inspector general and limit the reasons that they can be fired. Inspectors general serve as internal monitors over agencies and often investigate wrongdoing.
"They need to have the independence to be able to do that on a day-to-day basis without fear of retribution," Ausley said.
Ausley, a former Democratic state House member from Tallahassee, adopted her proposal using recommendations from Florida TaxWatch, a business-funded tax policy group.
Under the plan, a special legislative committee would submit a list of candidates to agency directors. The selection would be subject to approval from the governor and three-member Cabinet. Inspectors general would serve for seven-year terms and could be fired only "for cause."
Currently, people in those positions serve "at the pleasure" of the agency head.
Ausley cited a Florida Trend article that said an inspector general at Florida's health care agency was fired after criticizing a pilot project meant to reform the state Medicaid program.
Ausley would not be able to carry out the plan in her role as CFO. She says she would make it part of her legislative package and urge lawmakers to consider it.
She is running against is Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. Atwater spokesman Brian Hughes said the campaign hadn't closely studied Ausley's proposal, but that "more transparency and more accountability is always a good idea."
In 2006, both candidates voted for legislation that would create recommendations for an independent review process for inspector general audits.
A recent poll shows the two candidates statistically tied, though a survey done for the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows Atwater with a 14-point lead. Atwater also holds a nearly three-to-one advantage in fundraising.
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