Fred Aikens | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Fred Aikens

Candidate for State Auditor

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Fred Aikens
Party: Democratic
Date of Birth: 1 August 1950
Campaign Web Site: www.fredaikens.com
Occupation & Employer: Retired State Government Senior Executive/Retired Army Colonel (National Guard)
Years lived in North Carolina: 57



1. What do you see as the most important issues facing the State Auditor’s office?

  1. Leadership

  2. Increasing the number and quality of performance audits conducted.

  3. Reducing the turnover, stabilizing the workforce, and removing partisan politics from the Office of the State Auditor.

  4. Improving the Auditor’s relationship with other appointed and elected officials, including the Legislature.

  5. The State Auditor’s leadership or willingness to pursue a real-time monitoring system (early warning system) in concert with others to identify potential problem areas, shortcomings, or inefficient operations (including corruption) well before they reach a crisis point.

If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

  1. Seek additional resources from the Legislature to increase the number of performance audits and develop tools to pursue a real-time monitoring system to address inefficiencies and shortcomings (including corruption).

  2. Work with other appointed and elected officials such as the State Controller, State Budget Officer, Chief Information Technology Officer, and State Treasurer to develop a real-time monitoring system. We all want the same thing, to ensure the efficient and proper use of state funds and resources and each of these entities has a significant role and can be a valuable participant in this process.

  3. Cleaning up the Auditor’s Office, first, ensuring that the workforce is professional, devoid of partisanship, providing the necessary leadership to make it a great place to work, and focusing on ensuring that the money taxpayers send to Raleigh is spent efficiently, effectively, for the purposes intended, and free of corruption.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

  1. First, my work as a Senior Fiscal Analyst with our State Legislature’s Fiscal Research Division points to my likely effectiveness on the issues I’ve identified. I analyzed and evaluated budgets in major departments such as Agriculture, Labor, Commerce, Natural Resources and Community Development (this agency has since been renamed), Transportation, Administration, Employment Security Commission, Wildlife Resources Commission, Microelectronics and Biotechnology Centers, the School of Science and Mathematics, etc. There may be others that I’ve since forgotten. I analyzed and prepared formal legislative fiscal notes on proposed legislation that had major, long term cost implications and budget impacts in addition to reviewing complicated legislation and preparing it for legislative review. Oftentimes my findings and opinions were counter to departmental wishes and sometimes even counter to conclusions and opinions of legislators. Still I offered my most objective, rational, and unbiased reports to lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats. I was very persuasive in getting lawmakers to agree with my analyses and recommendations and had an impact on the efficiency of public dollars. I’m proud of that record accumulated during those nearly 15 years with the Legislative Fiscal Research Division.

  2. I have been a Senior Executive in two of our State’s largest agencies, DOT and Correction, where one’s leadership responsibilities require consensus and coordination among numerous internal and external organizations. I have been responsible for developing and executing a $2.5 Billion per year budget at DOT, an agency with 15,000 employees and operations in every county and many localities in this state. I was also the chief official responsible for overall coordination and development of policy at the federal and state level and the administration of a host of support functions and services. I had immediate supervisory oversight of budgeting, auditing (internal and external) personnel, and legislative matters. Not only have I forced agency accountability and efficiency as a Senior Fiscal Analyst with the Legislature but I have also done so as a Senior Executive in both agencies, DOT and DOC. At DOT I was able to implement budget reductions and efficiencies that I proposed as a Legislative Analyst saving the agency approximately $80 million per year, eliminating unnecessary staff, and increasing new highway construction funding by $38.5 M per year. I was responsible for getting DOT in compliance with Federal Highway Administration women and minority hiring goals, thereby averting a $300 million loss of federal funds. I was the driving force behind upgrading operations at the Division of Motor Vehicles, an $80 M per year operation, 94 driver licensing offices across the state, and 32 private contract agencies. I automated this division, increased job requirements, streamlined driver licensing operations, installed new telephones, and improved customer service. Not only was I tasked by Governor Jim Hunt and Secretary Sam Hunt with “fixing” a newly developed automated driver licensing system that crashed in 1993-94, but I subsequently continued the increased automation of the Division of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation. As a tribute to my leadership abilities and the confidence that Governor Hunt and Secretary Hunt had in me, I was able to directly task operations controlled by the State Controller in fixing the driver licensing system. This was done with State Controller Ed Renfrow’s support, confidence, and cooperation. I directed development of a new system for more closely monitoring construction expenditures, cash flow projections, and revenue generated from all sources to better manage DOT finances. I continued providing this type of leadership in my duties at the Department of Correction where I was able to streamline operations and automate the Division of Drug and Alcohol Dependency Programs. In addition, I continued my emphasis on information technology with the Department of Correction and state government as Chair of the Information Technology Advisory Council and a member of the Information Resources Management Council.

  3. I’ve also had the honor of serving our great country in this “Global War Against Terrorism” for two successive years on active duty, and have had the ultimate honor of leading troops during wartime and in a combat zone. I’ve had significant responsibilities during the period Oct 2001-Feb 2004, both while serving with Headquarters XVIII Airborne Corps as Director of Operations and during my tour of duty to the Iraqi Theater of Operation for Operation Iraqi Freedom as Deputy Commander of Contingency Base Camps in Kuwait. My leadership abilities will be a significant asset to the State Auditor’s Office.

  4. What I’ve just described and more as outlined on the attached resume point to the many accomplishments I’ve had and the degree to which I am likely to be effective in pursuing the goals and strategic vision that I have for the Auditor’s Office. I have the skill sets, the consensus building techniques, the experience, and the educational credentials to continue this type of success. I am no stranger to large, complex organizations as attested to by the above responses and the attached resume. I’ve dealt very effectively with large influential organizations like the General Assembly, DOT, DOC, and the Department of Defense. I am well aware of the critical nature of accurate data that forms the basis for clear findings and conclusions to produce useful alternative actions for solving problems.

3. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

If you are referring to a fair community where everyone is treated equally and free of discrimination, then that is what I strive for everyday. I’ve been discriminated against and treated unjustly and unfairly. It does not make you feel good. However, having been discriminated against and treated as I noted above, it is awful difficult for me to ignore my Christian values and discriminate against others. Ensuring that the money you and others, as taxpayers send to Raleigh, is spent efficiently, effectively, for the purposes intended, and is free of corruption also helps build a just community in this state.

4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

I will be the people’s watchdog for the tax dollars they send to Raleigh. If these funds are misused, misappropriated, stolen, used inefficiently, ineffectively, and you’re not accountable, I’m not going to win any popularity points with you. By and large, I think voters want accountability and responsibility. That’s what I plan to give them.

5. If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:

a.The extent to which auditing should be policy-driven, as opposed to the fundamental job of ascertaining whether money was spent in the way the law directed that it be spent? In other words, when is it the Auditor’s job to recommend changes in law and policy?

I would not separate the two. We’ve got to ascertain whether money is spent in the way the law directed, in addition to determining if it is being spent efficiently and effectively. But we must be able to adjust and shift our focus as necessary and oftentimes these things are policy driven as enacted by lawmakers. We are in a period, now, where the Auditor’s job might entail recommending changes in law and policy particularly as it relates to being able to more effectively identify corruption in any branch of government and for getting additional tools needed by that office to better perform its duties and responsibilities.

b. What areas of state spending do you think will demand your personal and sustained attention? Please be specific.

I’ll give Departmental areas as an example. Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Human Services, funding for economic development areas, information technology spending.

c.The Auditor’s office is expected to be nonpartisan and stay out of politics. What steps will you take to assure the public that you and your office are meeting that standard?

Watch how I conduct the business of the Office of the State Auditor.

d. State law does not protect public employees from discrimination because of sexual orientation or identity. As an employer and department head, will you?

Yes.

e. Should that law be changed to protect LGBT persons from workplace discrimination?

Legislative matter.

f. Should the law be changed to allow public employees in North Carolina to bargain collectively?

Legislative matter.

6. As member of the Council of State, you would have input on the issue of the death penalty, including the execution protocol, which was taken up by the Council last year. Do you feel qualified to vote on such issues?

Yes.

If so, how would you vote on the execution protocol and other death penalty matters that may come before the Council?

Don’t and won’t know until I am in that situation and have reviewed the case.

And is the Council of State an appropriate body to deliberate these issues?

I think so subject to the Legislature changing or clarifying the law.

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