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Keep Peterson as state auditor

Most North Dakotans don't know what the state auditor does. Most of the time, that's a good thing. It suggests the auditor's office is going about its business professionally and efficiently. Under Auditor Bob Peterson, that's been the rule. Without fanfare or news releases, Peterson and his staff of professional auditors have done an excellent job of examining, analyzing and making recommendations regarding the financial operation and condition of state agencies. Peterson has earned a fourth term because he and his agency do a good job for the people of North Dakota.

But there's another reason this time. The auditor's office was in the middle of the mess generated by malfeasance and arrogance at the state worker's compensation agency. Worker Safety and Insurance, which had become an out-of-control, unaccountable agency, was subjected to several audits that showed, among other things, misuse of funds. Those audits revealed other problems in the way WSI was managed, resulting in calls for reforms, heated legislative debates and a measure on the upcoming ballot that would return control of the agency to the governor's office. Peterson, a Republican, found himself in the thick of what could have become a partisan political storm. He remained cool and nonpartisan, allowing his professional staff to do their work, no matter the political fallout. He felt the political heat and resisted it.

Peterson's Democratic opponent, Daryl Splichal, has an impressive resume in corporate auditing and risk management. But in making the promise to "make sure government policies and funds are handled appropriately," he makes no convincing case that Peterson is doing anything less. Splichal's primary argument seems to be that the auditor is not visible enough, does not go before the Legislature enough and does not take the lead on important audits such as the WSI audit. To which we say: Good for Peterson. The incumbent's effective and appropriate management style is to let his excellent professional staff speak for their work. He's not interested in taking credit for others' work. His methods of management underpin the office's credibility, even when audits are political bombshells.

Peterson should stay on the job. The auditor's office needs a low-key, experienced manager, not a partisan showboat.

(Major endorsement editorials represent the opinion of Forum Communications management and ownership)