Inquirer endorses Joe Torsella for Pa. treasurer, Eugene DePasquale for auditor general
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT

With one former state treasurer convicted of extortion last year and another awaiting trial for allegedly lying to federal agents in a corruption investigation involving that office, Pennsylvania voters must choose carefully in electing the next person to hold that job.

Rob McCord, who became treasurer in 2009, resigned before pleading guilty to extorting campaign contributions. Barbara Hafer, treasurer from 1997-2005, is charged with lying in an investigation of alleged attempts to bribe McCord when he was treasurer to choose specific asset management firms to handle state investments.

Gov. Wolf’s appointee to finish McCord’s term, Timothy A. Reese, isn’t running for the post. The two major-party candidates, Democrat Joe Torsella, a former CEO of the National Constitution Center, and Otto Voit, president of a dental products manufacturing company in Gibbstown, agree on the need for a strong watchdog over the state’s $120 billion in assets and investments.

One place where the two disagree, however, is important. Torsella wants to get rid of the third-party firms that get the equivalent of a finder’s fee for connecting money managers with treasury officials. Voit says he doesn’t think that’s necessary. But the charges against Hafer involve a so-called “finder,” Richard W. Ireland, who was paid millions by asset management firms to help them get state contracts.

Torsella has other good ideas, including adding vendors’ political contributions to the Treasury Department’s database of state contracts. He also wants to create a PA-IRA program, so private-sector employees without access to workplace plans can create their own individual retirement accounts that draw funds through automatic payroll deductions.

Although he has not held elective office before, Torsella was a deputy mayor under Mayor Ed Rendell, served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Education, and was a U.S. representative to the United Nations. His belief that Pennsylvania can “lead the nation in transparency and integrity in state government” makes JOE TORSELLA the better choice for state treasurer.

Pennsylvanians also must choose an auditor general, another position with great fiscal responsibility. Running for reelection is Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, who is facing John Brown, the Republican county executive for Northampton County, who says he has returned $40 million to his county’s budget by eliminating waste and fraud.

DePasquale, however, has also done a creditable job as auditor general. With a staff of only about half the 900 that worked in the department in the 1990s, he has used advanced technology to reduce the time it takes to conduct audits, cut travel expenses, and reduce the office’s vehicle fleet.

Brown contends DePasquale should be saving the state more money, but the value of some audits can’t be counted in dollars and cents. For example, DePasquale discovered that 43,000 child abuse hotline calls weren’t answered and more than 3,000 rape kits were never tested by police. Audits that reveal where the state needs to invest more resources have value too. The Inquirer endorses EUGENE DEPASQUALE.