Party insiders are bucking Beacon Hill’s Democratic leadership in backing Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s quest to audit the legislature, including any court action required to achieve the goal.
The Democratic State Committee on a unanimous voice vote accepted a resolution last Wednesday night backing the Methuen Democrat’s efforts to hold the legislature accountable. The resolution states the party “endorses the state auditor’s initiatives, including any necessary legal action against any impediments to their audit efforts.”
For months, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen E. Spilka have resisted DiZoglio’s audit attempts, arguing she lacks the authority under state law—and that the information she’s seeking is available for public review or is already audited by other entities.
The diverse committee is composed of 400 Democrats from throughout the state, and about half participated in the hybrid meeting held at First Parish Dorchester, a MassDems spokesman said.
Under party rules, members are not required to disclose conflicts of interests ahead of voting because resolutions are non-binding, the spokesman said. There were no objections to the resolutions package, which included the proposal dealing with the auditor, the spokesman said.
The resolution states that “the Legislature often operates with limited public oversight, having not been audited in over three decades” and the legislature’s “exemptions around pivotal transparency laws such as the Open Meeting Law, Public Records Law and Conflict of Interest Law, highlight a significant accountability gap.”
Buoyed by the non-binding stamp of approval from party members, DiZoglio indicated Thursday she might soon use that momentum as she weighs her office’s legal options to enable her review of the legislature.
“It sends a clear message that everyday Democrats from every corner of the Commonwealth support our efforts to audit the legislature to help increase transparency, accountability and accessibility,” DiZoglio told State House News Service. “That is a pretty strong statement of support considering the tremendous push-back we have received on being able to access the justice system on behalf of our efforts to fulfill our mandate.”
Asked what legal action is under consideration by her office, DiZoglio said it’s “premature to have that conversation.”
She added, “Our team is conducting a thorough review of the 17-page rebuttal that the attorney general sent our way supporting legislative leaders’ arguments against an audit, so we are ensuring that a very thorough review is conducted before making any statements.” DiZoglio, suggested a path forward would be ironed out sometime after Thanksgiving.
Attorney General Andrea Campbell earlier this month said DiZoglio lacks the authority to audit the legislature without lawmakers’ consent. Mariano and Spilka applauded Campbell’s decision, saying in a joint statement that it “reinforced our long-held position that the auditor does not have the statutory or constitutional authority to audit any other separate branch of government.”
DiZoglio, who appealed to Campbell in July for help with a potential lawsuit to audit the Legislature, said she disagreed with the attorney general and would still conduct a review even if it triggered a lawsuit from the Legislature.
The auditor said her focus for now is on the signature-collecting effort underway for a possible 2024 ballot question seeking a law to explicitly outline the auditor’s ability to probe the legislature. Supporters need to file signatures from at least 74,574 registered voters with local elections officials by Wednesday.