By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
Updated 11:15 a.m. Thursday
LINCOLN, Neb. – Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill announced Thursday she is running for state auditor.
McGill – who will be term-limited out of her seat representing District 26 in northeast Lincoln next year – said during her time as a senator for the past seven years, she’s seen a lot of waste and mismanagement of government money.
“Millions of dollars have been lost and misused,” she said. “At times, best practices are flat-out ignored. Other times, well-meaning employees don’t understand best practices and were never trained properly. Either way, we can do better.”
She said she was a quiet, analytical senator for her first couple of years, but became a leader in reforms after the safe haven crisis, failed privatization of foster care. McGill, 33, is perhaps best known for pushing laws to crack down on human trafficking.
“I want to be your state auditor because I understand the value of hard-earned money,” she said. “Like many Nebraskans, I’ve had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and have learned to live on quite the frugal budget, much like state government should.”
McGill runs a women’s program for the YWCA and has worked part-time at Target for the past four years. She said she lost a good advertising job during the recession in 2008, and rather than go on unemployment, she took the Target job.
McGill was the YWCA managing director until she stepped back and took over a women’s leadership program. Her former boss, executive director Denise Serrett, recently pleaded no contest to embezzling from the YWCA, and McGill said she did so by using her name on checks without her permission.
“I also unfortunately know what it’s like to be the victim of embezzlement,” McGill said during her campaign kickoff press conference in Lincoln. “I learned the importance of asking questions when things don’t seem quite right.”
McGill said Serrett used a name stamp to sign checks with her name on it.
State Auditor Mike Foley is running for governor next year. The only formally announced candidate so far is Republican Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha. McGill is a Democrat.
McGill praised Foley’s work and said she’d continue to inspect the Department of Health and Human Services, but said there’s room for improvement. She said she’s met a lot of good HHS employees who didn’t have proper training. HHS has been a frequent target of scathing Foley audits. McGill said she thinks the auditor could do things more proactively, making sure people are properly trained and making audits a teaching experience. She said she’d work collaboratively to help state agencies understand and implement best practices to ensure money isn’t misused.
“Agencies and political subdivisions should see their auditor as someone who can help them do their jobs better and not as someone who is out to get them,” she said.
She said she’d work with the Legislature to conduct more performance audits and make sure the benefits of state programs are worth the cost.
“There has been a lack of this cooperation over the last few years and I plan to fix that,” she said.
She said she would also put new emphasis on looking for waste in the state prison system and take a closer look at government contracts.
“No government program can be successful if money is being needlessly wasted or misused,” she said.
The Omaha native is a former TV reporter for KOLN/KGIN in Lincoln and KCAU in Sioux City. Asked whether she thinks she has an adequate financial background to be state auditor, she said the job is a management and leadership role, and few auditors have had “that deep financial background.”
McGill has chaired the Urban Affairs Committee since 2009 and also chaired the Children in Crisis Task Force during the “safe haven” crisis. McGill serves on the Judiciary, Business and Labor and Children’s Behavioral Health Oversight Committees.
McGill will be going on a 15-city kickoff tour across the state this week. The cities on the tour include Lincoln, Omaha, Fremont, South Sioux City, West Point, Norfolk, Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings, McCook, Sidney, Scottsbluff, North Platte, Lexington and Kearney.
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