Auditor focuses on accountability

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Beth Chapman tackled Alabamians’ favorite political subject on Monday &045; accountability.

Chapman, Alabama’s state auditor, spoke to a crowd of about 40 Rotarians and their guests at the St. James Hotel. She touched on politics and the business of people’s money, but she also discussed her biggest pledge since entering office &045; cutting government waste.

On her first day in office Chapman cut $36,000 from the budget. She noted that the figure wasn’t high when considering the state’s budget as a whole; however, it’s more than the average Alabamian makes each year.

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Another cut Chapman made was her office chair. Most people in state government have chairs ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, Chapman said. &uot;Instead of that, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a chair for about $60,&uot; she added. &uot;That’s what we’re going to continue to do.&uot;

Chapman isn’t limiting the idea of accountability to her office alone. Her office started an accountability campaign that encourages people to call her when they see an example of government waste.

Chapman told a story about a Birmingham man who followed a state van one Sunday morning to an adult store. The man contacted Chapman’s office, which led to Chapman contacting the driver’s department.

Needless to say, the state employee received more than a slap on the wrist.

According to Chapman, state-owned laptop computers have a tendency to &uot;grow legs&uot; and walk away. When she started her position, she discovered 18 trucks and cars were missing from one department. &uot;As one of my children asked me, ‘How does somebody lose a truck?’&uot;

That department currently has no missing vehicles. &uot;We’re tightening our belts,&uot; Chapman said. &uot;As a government, we’ve got to stop asking the people for more money.&uot;

Chapman ended her speech with a story. She once worked for a politician who faced a difficult issue in the state. Special interests, who had funded his campaign, wanted one thing. Others were telling him the &uot;right&uot; thing to do.

Ultimately, it came down to the proverbial &uot;smoke-filled room.&uot; Chapman, the politician and a man referred to as &uot;Joe&uot; attempted to work out a solution.

To help him reach that decision, Joe referred to his baseball card collection. As a child, he would sell and trade all of his baseball cards, except one &045; Mickey Mantle. Joe’s baseball collection revolved around that core card, and he would never part with it.

Chapman emphasized that everyone needed to find their core set of values. &uot;And pray that we never sway from them,&uot; she said to the sounds of rising applause.

Chapman grew up in Greenville and received her bachelor’s from The University of Montevallo and her master’s from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In 1996, she began her own business, Beth Chapman & Associates. She’s written speeches as well as managed the campaigns of several Alabama officials.