Home About Archives RSS Feed

Auditor Candidates Trade Jabs

Tammy Daniels

Candidates for auditor Suzanne Bump, Mary Z. Connaughton and Nathanael Fortune debated at BCC on Monday night.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The two major party candidates for the state auditor's job spent Monday night trading jabs over negative campaigning and past scandals, leaving the Green-Rainbow candidate to position himself as outside the fray — and of business as usual.

The debate was sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television and hosted at Berkshire Community College. One of the candidates, Suzanne Bump, 54, is a resident of Great Barrington, (which she confirmed again on Monday).

Best quote of the night: Fortune on whether he's a spoiler in the race. 'If electing a Democrat to office would make a difference, we'd already be living in Nirvana.'

The Democrat and former labor official for Gov. Deval Patrick is seeking the position against Republican candidate Mary Z. Connaughton, 50, of Framingham, former director of the Massachusetts Turnpike and a certified public accountant, and Green-Rainbow candidate Nathanael Fortune, 49, a Smith College physics professor and Whately School Committee chairman.

Moderator Daniel Valenti, local writer and political commentator, prefers a free-form style of debate that allows give and take between the candidates. "We will encourage dialogue among the three candidates and we would prefer them to interact with each other rather than me," he said at the beginning of the hourlong debate.

He didn't have to worry about dialogue: Bump and Connaughton breezily clashed in a practiced performance — it was, after all, about the 10th time they'd debated — prompting Fortune to quip, "I did offer to sit between these two."

Bump started the day in Boston on a "Donut Fund Express" to the Berkshires, making stops at independent doughnut shops along the way to highlight recent stories about fiscal mismanagement at the State Lottery in 1990s — some of which occurred during Connaughton's tenure there as chief financial officer. Money was routed to a so-called "doughnut" fund to hide expenses for parties, entertainment and promotional events.

"Yes, these practices were going on for decades before I got there; they ended under my watch," said Connaughton, who claimed she had done much to put in place "culture-changing moves" within six months of joining the Lottery. "I fixed it; I was hired to clean up a mess and I did it."

The Romney appointee waved an endorsement from the liberal-leaning Berkshire Eagle on Bump's turf and noted she is the first CPA to ever run for the post. Bump waved a state auditor's report and attacked Connaughton's performance in dealing with abandoned properties she said cost the state $16 million. Connaughton said it was about eliminating a sweetheart deal with one contractor to ensure competition and getting the money into the taxpayers' pockets, not the state's general fund.

"Suzanne, you just don't get it, you just don't get it," said Connaughton, which elicited some applause from the audience left from the earlier debate for the 2nd Berkshire District.

Bump dismissed her opponent's "soaring rhetoric," "it's her failure to take responsibility that's the most disturbing thing."

Valenti questioned Bump on the recent flap over where her primary residence is. She and her husband had filed for property tax exemptions on both their Great Barrington home and South Boston condo. Bump said Boston had changed the rules without informing them.

All three candidates said they would be advocates for the public and take a more aggressive stand on looking at not just expenditures but outcomes to see if public money was being spent wisely. They all said they would bring in an independent auditor to review the office, which hasn't been done in 20 years. Bump and Fortune said the division's 300 employees and $17 million budget were enough. Connaughton said she'd have employees reapply for their jobs as way to review staffing and qualifications

Bump and Connaughton try to get their points across at the same time.

Fortune tried to keep his comments to the role of the auditor ("it's hard to be a candidate if your mother has trained you if you don't have anything nice to say ...") and said he would be an advocate for the public. He noted his role in reducing energy costs in his own school district through analysis and research and recognition by the state school committees association for his analysis of state and local education funding.

"The three of us have been to enough debates that to some extent we can say each other's points. The most common from Suzanne is you should be a bureaucrat to be this and, from Mary, you should be an accountant or an auditor," he said. "Both those skills are valuable in being a state auditor but neither of them are essential."

Politics and lobbying "distorts the priorities," he said; if public dollars paid only for public services, it would free up $1 billion. "You have to follow the money."

Bump said her experience in state government, during which she oversaw teams of auditors and researchers in investigating spending and outcomes for various work-force programs to "go beyond simply how much money did we spend, but what did we get for it and how can we do it better."

"You need somebody who can set priorities and be a leader and that's what I have done when I was a legislator and as a cabinet secretary," she said, agreeing "somewhat" with Fortune. "We do have billions of dollars in tax exemptions, and tax credits and tax incentives and few of those individual programs have mechanisms to determine if the taxpayers are really getting the benefits they're supposed to get."

Connaughton touted that fact that she is the only CPA who has ever run for auditor and her experience working in the state treasurer's office and the former MassPike. She pledged to run a professional department and bring "lots of sunshine" to Beacon Hill.

"I do not need on-the-job training at the taxpayer's expense. [The auditor] is the people's eyes on Beacon Hill, it's their voice on Beacon Hill to make sure our tax dollars are being spent properly," said Connaughton. "I will manage this office in an extremely professional way ... politics has nothing to do with the state auditor's race."

Toward the end of the debate, Connaughton tried to get a pledge from Bump not to engage in negative campaigning when her television ads hit the air on Wednesday. Bump said it depended on what Connaughton meant by negative campaigning. 

"They are going to contain positive things about my candidancy," said Bump and, in response to questions, confirmed "Mary's name will be in it."

Fortune said he'd be happy to take the pledge. "I'm not running any ads at all. I think I'm running a very frugal campaign ... I'm setting a good example for state auditor."

The debate will be rebroadcast on PCTV. We will try to have audio up later Tuesday.

4 Comments
Tags: auditor, debate      
News Headlines
Tyer Officially Appoints Wynn As Pittsfield's Chief of Police
Craneville Students Show Gratitude to Veterans
During Holidays, Be Extra Vigilant About Protecting Financial Data
Holiday Hours: Thanksgiving
North Adams Happenings: Nov. 22-28
Price Chopper Donating Fort Mass Park to North Adams
Williamstown Record Store Owner Looking to Sell Business, Retire
Tyer Administration Submits Proposal To Overhaul Trash Pick Up
Curling Added to Bay State Winter Games
MCLA Women's Basketball Falls on Road

Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Election
Tuesday, Nov. 4

Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation was Oct.15.


Candidates on the ballot in races for state office; all others on the ballot are unopposed. Links will take you to their campaign websites.

U.S. Senator
Edward J. Markey, Democrat
Brian J. Herr, Republican

Governor/Lieutenant Governor
Charlie Baker & Karyn Polito, Republican
Martha Coakley & Stephen Kerrigan, Democrat
Evan Falchuk & Angus Jennings, United Independent Party
Scott Lively & Shelly Saunders, Independent
Jeff McCormick & Tracy Post, Independent 

Attorney General
Maura Healey, Democratic
John B. Miller, Republican

Secretary of State
William Francis Galvin, Democratic
David D'Arcangelo, Republican
Daniel L. Factor, Green-Rainbow

Treasurer
Deborah B. Goldberg, Democratic
Michael James Heffernan, Republican
Ian T. Jackson, Green-Rainbow

Auditor
Suzanne M. Bump, Democratic
Patricia S. Saint Aubin, Republican
MK Merelice, Green-Rainbow

Municipal Elections

The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.

2010 Special Senate Election Results

Election 2009 Stories

Election Day 2008

 

 

 



Categories:
1st Berkshire (42)
2010 (0)
2011 (78)
2012 (59)
2013 (63)
2014 (76)
2nd Berkshire (29)
3rd Berkshire (19)
4th Berkshire (14)
attorney general (6)
auditor (5)
campaign (72)
candidate forums (49)
city council (40)
Congress (25)
election (74)
endorsements (47)
events (30)
fundraising (10)
governor (26)
letters (9)
local (18)
mayor (54)
news (8)
school committee (21)
selectmen (22)
selectmen (16)
sheriff (28)
state (24)
statements (45)
Archives:
Tags:
Szczepaniak U.s. Senate Democrat Town Elections Lieutenant Governor Special Election Berkshire Brigades City Council Election 2014 North Adams Debates Governor 1st Mass Bowler Letters To The Editor Election 2013 Mark Independent Democratic Party Williamstown Boucher Pittsfield Bosley Primary Debate Town Election Preliminary Republican Party Selectmen Macdonald Mayor Candidates Campaign Bissaillon Cariddi
Popular Entries:
Bosley Looks to Wind Up Legislative Career
There's a New Sheriff in Town
Three Make Case for 2nd District Seat
Cariddi Clear Winner in 1st District
Candidates Forum Scheduled for Aug 17
Longtime City Councilor Cariddi Kicks Off State Rep Campaign
Election Day 2010
Bissaillon Campaign Hosts Pancake Breakfast
North Adams Mayoral Debate Video
Baker Wins Governor's Race
Recent Entries:
Independent Falchuk Hits Threshold To Start New Party
Baker Wins Governor's Race
AG Candidate Healey Hears Concerns on Hospital
Candidate Kerrigan Stops in Pittsfield For Get Out The Vote Push
Suzanne Bump Seeking Re-election as Auditor
U.S. Senate Candidate Brian Herr Fighting for Name Recognition
Area Democrats Making Final Push For November Election
Coakley Stresses Commitment to Berkshires
Candidates Showing Differences As Governor's Race Heats Up
Gubernatorial Candidates Spar In Springfield Debate