|Public Release Date: April 20, 1995||No. 95-17|
The Office of the Legislative Auditor has conducted a special review of certain alleged improprieties relating to the House of Representatives telephone service. We conducted the review at the request of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Governor's Chief of Staff.
Our objectives were to answer the following questions:
In addition, we discovered that some House members had acquired individual 1-800 numbers through the Department of Administration. We expanded our review to examine this issue.
Staff of the Office of the Legislative Auditor are employees of the Legislature. Because of this, according to generally accepted governmental auditing standards included in Government Auditing Standards 1994 Revision, issued by the Comptroller General of the United States, the Legislative Auditor's Office is not considered independent of the Legislature for audit purposes. Despite this limitation, Minn. Stat. Section 10.47 directs the Legislative Auditor to investigate and report on evidence of misuse of long distance telephone service of state employees and officials, including legislators.
We found that Alan Welle continued to use his corporate home account after leaving office in December 1993. During the period from January 1994 through January 1995, he charged a total of $139.76 in long distance telephone calls to his House corporate home account. We estimate the total market value (residential rate) of these calls, including additional taxes, to be $268.43. We did not find any evidence of telephone misuse by former members after the 1994 elections. However, we found that an individual 1-800 number for a former member appeared on the January 1995 House of Representatives telephone bill as a result of an error.
We found no evidence that members have been using the Sergeant-at-Arms incoming 1-800 number inappropriately. The Sergeant's toll-free number is an economical method for out-state members to communicate with metropolitan area state offices. We are satisfied that callers are restricted to House members.
House members have the ability to request individual 1-800 numbers directly through the Department of Administration. Members are supposed to pay for the use of these 1-800 numbers with personal or campaign funds, not with public funds. House Administrative Services has not been involved in establishing or monitoring members' individual 1-800 numbers.
We found that the Department of Administration had erroneously billed individual House member 1-800 service to House Administrative Services since June 1994. The amount of the incorrect bills, through January 1995, totaled $486.04. As of April 1, 1995, House members or their campaign committees had reimbursed the House for $195.02 of the total amount billed in error. House Administrative Services is in the process of billing these members for the remaining amounts.