Susan Montee (D) and Tom Schweich (R) debate at the Lodge of Four Season at the Lake of the Ozarks

Just what kind of person does it take to be the state auditor? The two major party candidates up for the position disagree on a very basic point.

Democrat Susan Montee is the incumbent in the race for state auditor, and she is a Certified Public accountant. She says being a CPA is a necessity for the job.

“What we do in our office is audit opinions that are only able to be done, by statute, by certified public accountants. This is not just coming and saying, ‘well, I’ve done some investigative work so I can look at all this stuff and understand what’s going on,’” Montee said.

She’s alluding to her opponent, Republican Tom Schweich. Schweich says he’s overseen audits and investigations as a former prosecutor, law enforcement officer, and U.S. Ambassador. But he is not a CPA.

“What you need is management skill, tenacity, and the ability to root out fraud, waste, abuse and corruption. The office has 50 CPA’s and they’re very important to have in that office. But the idea that you have to be a CPA to be an auditor runs contrary to her own mentor’s statements, her own statements in the past, and the excellent performance by non-CPA’s in that job for many, many years,” Schweich said.

He points out that Claire McCaskill, Kit Bond, and John Ashcroft were not CPA’s. Montee countered by saying that the standards the office uses have changed since them, and that has made the qualification a necessity.

The candidates were asked what they would change about the auditor’s duties. Schweich said he wouldn’t recommend any changes until talking to the employees of the office extensively first.

“But a few observations I have that would which are things that I would consider, subject to talking to the staff there first, would be increased audits of school districts. Those are within the discretion of the auditor. There’s also discretion for the auditor to audit state officials. Rather than just on the once every two year cycle, maybe in this cycle with everything going on in the country it might be better to do more of those,” Schweich said.

Meantime, the question for Montee was what she had changed when taking over the office four years ago.

“I took the four divisions down to three, one of which is quality control, so it’s really only two different audit divisions. We share resources now; as one group gets too busy, we can move people over. All of our audit reports now are the same format, and we have been able to do many, many more audits with less resources,” Montee said.

Montee was asked about her support of President Obama in 2008.

“I supported Barack Obama because of the vision that he was presenting of rising above the fray, and having bipartisanship and being above party politics. That hasn’t turned out to be the case in Washington and it certainly isn’t the case in Missouri. Although I will say that in my office we have run our office in a bipartisan way, a nonpartisan way,” Montee said.

Schweich also responded to the question about political influences should he become state auditor.

“Anyone who’s read what I’ve written over the years has seen that I’m frequently someone who breaks with my party when I think they’re wrong. I’m very fiercely independent minded, I’ve always been that way, and will bring those characteristics to the auditor’s office. I’ve also pledged to recuse myself from any audit directly involving one of my major contributors, so there will be no conflict of interest at all in my office,” Schweich said.

These comments came at the candidate’s debate at the Lake of the Ozarks. It is the only one they will have, and you can listen to it in its entirety below.

AUDIO: Complete State Auditor debate [46 min MP3]

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]