Thomas, Montee square off on experience, goals
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Thomas, Montee square off on experience, goals

Date: September 27, 2006
By: Rachel Higginbotham
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Negative campaigning tactics are typically reserved for the last few weeks of election season. But for Sandra Thomas and Susan Montee, the attacks started early.

Since winning the primaries for state auditor in August, Thomas, the Republican candidate, and Montee, the Democrat have accused each other of faulty bookkeeping and negligence in their work.

Thomas is currently the auditor for Platte County. Montee is the auditor for Buchanan County, and manages financial records for her husband's law firm.

"I'd like to talk about goals for the state," said Montee when asked about the recent sparring between she and Thomas. "But it's hard to get people to focus on that."

The accusations began just after a private audit report, released in August, questioned Thomas's ability as Platte County Auditor.

"I didn't really know much about Platte County until then," Montee said. "But I was asked to comment on the [$195,000] discrepency in the Platte County books. So I did."

Thomas retaliated with a statement accusing Montee of not doing enough to invesigate the resignation of Buchanan County Public Administrator Bonnie Sue Lawson, as well as an error in bookkeeping at Montee's husband's law firm.

"What we've had here is a series of people saying 'O.K., we're bad, but she's bad, too,'" said Montee."It should be about who's better equipped to be state auditor."

But Thomas says it's just a part of campaigning.

"I think that anytime you run a campaign, it's important to talk about your own record," Thomas said. "And it's also important to talk about the record of your opponent."

So what are the records?

Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from William Jewell College and a Master of Science in Accounting from the University or Missouri-Kansas City. She is a CPA, and has served as Platte County Auditor since 1994. When elected, Thomas became the youngest county auditor in the state, at age 28.

Her first prioity as auditor if elected?

"The first thing I'd do is set up a four-year audit plan to look at areas like transportation, conservation, education, Medicaid and the court systems," she said. "These are the areas that the auditor should be focusing on."

Thomas said that rather conducting performance audits, which focus on the efficiency of state programs, "my focus is on where the money is spent."

Thomas also said that, if elected, she'd like to explore areas like woker's compesation and the Missouri Gaming commission.

Montee has an accounting degree from Drury College, and was certified as a CPA in 1985. She has served as Buchanan County Auditor since 2000.

In addition to her CPA, Thomas also has a law degree from UMKC, and says that, if elected, she will be the first Missouri state auditor with both a degree in accounting and law.

Like Thomas, Montee said she wants to bring a financial focus back to the auditor's office.

Montee said she thinks her background in both law and accounting can bring about a balance in the state auditor's office. "Right now there's a heavy emphasis in Claire [McCaskill's] office on performance audits, which are important, but we also need to make sure that the money's in the right drawer," Montee said.

"My No.1 priority, if elected, would be to work towards a balance between the two."

Montee also said that she's like to establish a liason system to help counties in economic trouble.

"Right now 89 counties don't have auditors, and those counties only get audited every four years," she said. "If a county has a real problem, four years is a long time."

Thomas and Montee will face Libertarian candidate Charles Baum and Progressive candidate Terry Bunker on Nov. 7.