GLASGOW — Republican Mike Harmon believes he deserves a second term as Kentucky's auditor based on what he touted as being a nonpartisan track record of sticking to the numbers and providing needed examinations of how public funds are spent and used.
"We always want to maintain our philosophy of following the data," Harmon said Wednesday when he visited the Glasgow Daily Times while making stops in southcentral Kentucky.
"It shouldn't matter what party is in power. It shouldn't matter what party is in accounting. We should treat everybody the same in just following the data."
Harmon is facing Democrat Sheri Donahue, who was featured in a Daily Times' story when she made a campaign stop in Glasgow on Aug. 1.
Harmon defeated Adam Edelen in 2015 in the Auditor of Public Accounts race. Prior to his latest post, Harmon was a state representative for 13 years representing Boyle and Casey counties along with Washington County prior to redistricting.
His audits of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund and the University of Louisville Foundation generated Harmon attention over his first four years as auditor. Harmon also conducted a special examination of Kentucky Wired, which led to findings that taxpayers would be on the hook for more money for the project than initially indicated.
Harmon said his goal from the start was to ensure consistency in the auditor's office's reports. Harmon's motto, which he sported on a button on his suit jacket Wednesday, is "Follow the Data."
"The very first thing I did when I went into the auditor's office, I said 'I don't want to hear that we targeted anyone, I don't want to hear that we gave anyone a pass, I just want us to follow the data," he said.
The state auditor's office is responsible for conducting financial audits of publicly-funded operations such as fiscal courts, sheriff's departments and county clerk offices. Harmon said they complete 500-600 audits annually, many of which are required by statute.
Examining financial records many times leads to clean audit reports for those being examined, but they can also uncover illegal activities or mismanagement.
For example, Harmon's office reported 75 findings in an audit to the FBI, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Attorney General's Office related to a former Jackson County treasurer who served in the position from 2006 to 2016. The former treasurer, Beth N. Sallee, was sentenced this week to almost four years in prison after she pleaded guilty to writing herself over $161,000 in checks from county accounts.
Harmon said his office was also able to discover public entities that had yet to receive an audit, or hadn't been reviewed for several years. He credited his staff for their diligence in addressing the responsibilities the auditor's office bears.
"People should know that it's not just me as the auditor. We have a great team, and that includes both our merit and non-merit" employees, he said.
Harmon has garnered several endorsements including nods from the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police and Right to Life.
"We just believe that we've worked extremely hard and we believe that we have more to do, and we just believe that we're the best people to do it," he said.
The general election will be held Nov. 5.