Auditor could face lawsuit unless state releases records
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s new auditor must provide certain state expenditure and vendor documents within the next 30 days or become part of a lawsuit, a nonprofit group said Friday.
Adam Andrzejewski, chief executive of the group American Transparency, made the ultimatum during the first meeting of a state financial transparency group convened by Wyoming’s new governor.
Andrzejewski, whose website posts state and local agency spending information as a public service, has been trying to get the records since 2015 and wants to add the auditor to a lawsuit pressing for the information if she fails to fulfill the request.
Wyoming is one of the last few states that hasn’t fully complied with American Transparency’s requests.
The seven-person panel includes Gov. Mark Gordon and State Auditor Kristi Racines, both of whom appeared willing to cooperate with Illinois-based American Transparency, also known as openthebooks.com.
Racines said a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit and another group in July prevented her from saying much about the situation but providing the records “is what I will be working on.”
Gordon said he is committed to financial transparency.
“I’d love to see openthebooks in Wyoming. We will do our best to make that happen,” Gordon said.
Openthebooks.com received some records from the previous state auditor, Cynthia Cloud. Her office initially provided some of the information while arguing that fulfilling the entire request would be too burdensome for employees.
The group still seeks recent, detailed state expenditures, or “checkbook” records, and five years of state vendor records.
Racines won election in November to succeed term-limited Cloud as auditor, both Republicans.
Openthebooks.com has been asking the Wyoming Auditor’s Office for vendor data since 2015.
The Equality State Taxpayers Association filed a similar records request last winter. Both groups sued after paying Cloud’s office almost $8,000 to process the information but they received only a small fraction of the requested records, the lawsuit said.
Late in 2018, Cloud provided state checkbook data for 2016 and 2017 but the groups still need the vendor records and recent state checkbook records, Andrzejewski said.
Before completing her second term, Cloud sought proposals from potential contractors to develop an online spending transparency system. The auditor’s office has received three proposals, which for now remain sealed, Racines said.
A new online system isn’t necessary to provide all of the requested records, the taxpayer association’s Kevin Lewis said after the meeting.
Openthebooks.com also has been collecting local government and school district spending data in Wyoming over the past several years. School districts are becoming less responsive to the group’s public records requests, Andrzejewski said.
By not providing all information requested, state officials have communicated to local officials that such requests can be ignored, Andrzejewski said.
Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver