Name as it appears on the ballot: Leslie Merritt
Date of Birth: November 19, 1951
Campaign Web Site:
Occupation & Employer: State Auditor; State of North Carolina
Years lived in North Carolina: Lifelong resident

1) What do you see as the most important issues facing the State Auditor’s office? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

Adopting a pro-active approach which helps prevent problems from happening rather than simply cleaning them up after the fact. Over the past three years, we have increased the office’s emphasis on performance audits; if re-elected, I will continue that effort. Further, we will leverage our recently-launched Investigative Task Force to expose fraud, waste and abuse in state government. In addition, earlier this year we launched a new initiative to follow up with agencies audited during our first three years to ensure that they are actually implementing the recommendations that emerged during the course of those audits.

2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

When I took office three years ago, we discovered a huge backlog of unfinished investigative audits – some as much as three years old. We reduced that backlog by 76%, which has enabled us to focus more energy on pro-active performance audits, which help ascertain both the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs. We are on track to conduct 46% more performance audits during 2005-2008 than were released during 2001-2004.

3) The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

By adopting a pro-active approach in working with state agencies, including mental health agencies and state-funded non-profits, our office helps those agencies more effectively and efficiently accomplish their mission of helping those who need it most. This is one of the reasons we launched a new initiative to train personnel from funding agencies and grant recipients.

4) Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

Every time we audit an agency or follow up on an investigative tip from our fraud hotline, there is the likelihood that we will step on someone’s toes in the process. If re-elected, I will continue to follow the money and the trail of corruption and follow up on investigative audits without regard to the political consequences.

5) If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:

  1. The extent to which auditing should be policy-driven, as opposed to the fundamental job of ascertaining whether money was spent in the way the law directed that it be spent? In other words, when is it the Auditor’s job to recommend changes in law and policy?
  2. There are certain instances in which the Auditor should recommend changes in law and policy. For example, following a 2006 Performance Audit, our office pushed to increase accountability by strengthening internal audit functions throughout state government. Since then, the legislature has enacted the N.C. Internal Audit Act, which requires large agencies to devote resources and attention to internal auditors which will help do just that.
  3. What areas of state spending do you think will demand your personal and sustained attention? Please be specific.
  4. State-funded non-profits and other grant recipients; mental health agencies; Medicaid. In terms of non-profits, we launched a new initiative to train personnel from funding agencies and other grant recipients; our office has trained more than 10,000 personnel from non-profits and other grant recipients since I took office.
  5. The Auditor’s office is expected to be nonpartisan and stay out of politics. What steps will you take to assure the public that you and your office are meeting that standard?
  6. I was one of the first candidates to file a declaration of intent to participate in the public financing program for Council of State offices created by the Voter Owned Elections act. In addition, I do not accept campaign contributions from employees of our office. In terms of establishing audit and investigative priorities, those decisions are made by our professional staff based solely on the merits of each case and without regard to political considerations.
  7. State law does not protect public employees from discrimination because of sexual orientation or identity. As an employer and department head, will you?
  8. All OSA employees are judged solely on their merit and the quality of their work.
  9. Should that law be changed to protect LGBT persons from workplace discrimination?
  10. This is a policy issue that I believe should be handled by the legislature.
  11. Should the law be changed to allow public employees in North Carolina to bargain collectively?
  12. This is a policy issue that I believe should be handled by the legislature.
  13. 6) As member of the Council of State, you would have input on the issue of the death penalty, including the execution protocol, which was taken up by the Council last year. Do you feel qualified to vote on such issues? If so, how would you vote on the execution protocol and other death penalty matters that may come before the Council? And is the Council of State an appropriate body to deliberate these issues?
  14. This is an issue that I believe should be handled by the legislature, not the Council of State, and I encourage the legislature to bring the issue up for discussion.