Minnesota Auditor

Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles in 2011. The longtime auditor will retire on Oct. 5 after decades on the job. (Tom Scheck/MPR News 2011)

For the first time in many decades, state lawmakers are searching for a new legislative auditor.

Members of the Legislative Audit Commission met Friday to discuss the pending retirement of longtime Legislative Auditor James Nobles and how they go about filling the vacancy.

Nobles notified lawmakers last month that he will be stepping down after 38 years as legislative auditor. His last day will be Oct. 5.

Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, said Nobles created a professional institution in state government.

“Legacies live on, good and bad, and I think we’re on a great foundation for us to continue to move forward,” Koran said.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor was created in 1973. It conducts financial audits of state agencies as well as evaluations of state-funded programs.

Nobles has been praised from both sides of the political aisle for his integrity as a government watchdog. But he returned the compliment, thanking commission members for helping him to build that reputation.

“This doesn’t happen without the political support of the elected representatives,” Nobles said. “So, you are very much the bedrock foundation on which we build our work. We don’t exist without you.”

State officials will post the job opening next week. An interim auditor will be needed for when Nobles leaves. A new legislative auditor is expected to be named in November.

Nonpartisanship and independence are key characteristics being sought for the new legislative auditor. But Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said that will be a challenge.

“I think what we’re looking for is someone who can step into the role, and that all of us can have confidence that they’re acting in a nonpartisan way,” Liebling said. “Not that they are a person who stepped off of Mars and never had a single partisan thought or activity in their life.”

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