CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's constitution mandates the election of an auditor every four years to oversee government check-writing. Glen Gainer III has held the statewide comptroller post since 1993, after his father held it for 16 years. Glen III does a good job. He reduced usage of paper checks, substituting electronic money transfers, which saved taxpayers a bundle. He helped guarantee that state bills are paid on time. Buying patterns are now analyzed by computer to catch inappropriate purchases.
In 2009, Kenyan swindlers created out-of-state bank accounts in names almost identical to two corporations holding West Virginia contracts, then requested that state payments be sent to those accounts. Around $2 million was diverted before the scheme was detected. The auditor calls this episode his "darkest hour."
But when the problem was found, he didn't hide it and try to conduct an internal and possibly inadequate investigation. He called the FBI and explained the problem to the public. Three Kenyans went to prison, part of the loss was recovered, and Gainer sued the banks in an attempt to recoup the rest. The scam took advantage of corporate identification numbers easily available online or in public documents. Gainer's office has since required another, more secure identification number of vendors to prevent repeat scams. He has alerted other states to problems and thwarted other attempts.
His office is in the process of a $160 million upgrade to replace 100 different and usually incompatible payroll, payments, human resources, transportation and other computer networks statewide. It will streamline payroll, purchasing and inventory for all state agencies and save the state about $300 million a year. He wants to see it through.
We endorse Gainer to continue his good record in the auditor's office. The election is Nov. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 24.