DiZoglio vows to audit the Legislature if elected auditor

Says she will take her fight for transparency to court

I WAS DISAPPOINTED by Bruce Mohl’s recent post in CommonWealth magazine relative to the Massachusetts auditor’s race entitled, “Standing up campaign promises of auditor candidates.” A more fitting title might have been “Status Quo is the Way to Go,” as it implied that the state auditor should not seek to creatively use every power at her disposal to boldly push for increased transparency and accountability in every corner of government.

When I first ran for office in 2012 as a woman in my 20s, a man literally gave me a pat on the head and told me it was “cute” that I thought I could win the race. I had very little money but burned through the soles of my sneakers to knock on every door possible. A few months later, I unseated a 14-year incumbent, becoming the youngest woman serving in the House of Representatives at that time.

A few years later, I stood up on the floor of the House of Representatives to call on former Speaker Bob DeLeo to stop abusing his power, and our tax dollars, to keep sexual harassment victims quiet. I was told, “you can’t legally do that,” “you’re crazy,” “you’re destroying your career,” and, my personal favorite, “If you take on the speaker, he will crush you.”

I did it anyway. I broke the taxpayer-funded non-disclosure agreement (NDA) meant to silence me and went toe-to-toe with the former speaker to demand change. I did this to make sure others would not be forced into silence like I had been as legislative staffer who experienced sexual harassment on Beacon Hill. Since then, I’ve moved on to serve in the state Senate, where we’ve successfully passed my bill to ban taxpayer-funded NDAs.

These experiences have taught me that if we as elected leaders want to make any progress on the issues we care about, we need to focus on seizing potential opportunities rather than on the excuses for inaction pushed by critics.

With all due respect to Mohl’s arguments regarding the auditor’s authorities, nowhere in the statute laying out the powers of the office is the auditor prohibited from investigating the Legislature. There are a number of examples where the body has explicitly excluded itself from oversight, like its exemption from the public records law in Ch. 66 Section 18 of the General Laws, and its exemption in the Post Audit and Oversight Committee statute detailed in Ch. 3 Section 63. It has not done so here. 

No one can argue (with a straight face) that the Legislature doesn’t desperately need a light shined on its closed-door operations, where committee votes are hidden from the public and legislation is passed in the dark of night with little notice for review – and even less for debate.

Unfortunately, statements like “the focus of the office is on the executive branch” give political cover to those who don’t want to even try to hold an entire branch of government accountable to the public – fearful of losing political friends among powerful Beacon Hill insiders.

Meet the Author

Diana DiZoglio

Senator / Democratic candidate for auditor, Methuen
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It is my hope that the Legislature will welcome the opportunity for an audit to shine a light on where we can, and must, do better. If compliance with an audit is refused, however, then the fight for transparency would simply need to be taken to court. 

The people of Massachusetts deserve more than keep-the-status-quo excuses like, it’s “unlikely” anything can be done so don’t bother trying. They deserve a transparency champion who won’t take no for an answer and an auditor who will use every tool in her tool belt to fight like hell for meaningful change. I have never shied away from a battle to hold Beacon Hill’s most powerful accountable – and I never will.

Diana DiZoglio is the state senator from Methuen and a candidate in the Democratic primary for state auditor.