Our Opinion: Elect Scott Learn for auditor
The race for Multnomah County auditor isn't going to stir up partisan passions — or frankly any type of passion at all. And it's not the kind of office that will bring glory or public acclaim to its occupant.
But despite its low public profile and staid-sounding name, the auditor's job is an important one. Whoever is elected to this position is supposed to help ensure that tax dollars being spent in Multnomah County are working as well as advertised.
That's a monumental job, given the county's nearly $2 billion budget and its grab bag of public services. The county's portfolio includes public health, county jails and the sheriff's office, homelessness, libraries, juvenile justice, maintenance of the bridges crossing the Willamette River and much more.
After eight years, the current county auditor, Steve March, has hit his term limit. Fortunately, three qualified candidates — two of whom already work in the county auditor's office — have entered the race to replace him.
To even run for county auditor, candidates must be either a certified public accountant or a certified internal auditor. It's too bad that more offices don't have minimum qualifications of their own, because we can honestly say that voters can't really lose with their choice for auditor.
Of the three candidates — Scott Learn, Jennifer McGuirk and Mark Ulanowicz — our nod goes to Learn, but it's not because of any marked deficiencies in his two opponents. Both McGuirk and Ulanowicz are auditors working for the county now. They have a good understanding of the office's role, and they are quite fluent in discussing the priorities they would bring to the office.
Learn, who has worked as a state performance auditor for five years, would bring more of an outside perspective — which can be a positive attribute for a public office that allows, at most, two four-year terms to make an impact. An elected auditor must be an activist who looks for ways to improve government performance. But he or she also must maintain objectivity and allow the facts to shape conclusions, rather than the other way around.
As a former investigative reporter who had an auditing career both before and after his stint at the Oregonian newspaper, Learn impresses us as someone who will follow the evidence, wherever it might lead.
It's a close call among three solid candidates, but we recommend voters elect Scott Learn for Multnomah County auditor.