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Published: Friday, 10/1/2010

Auditor candidate aims at fraud


COLUMBUS - Ohio auditor wannabe David Pepper Thursday said information and vigilance would be the key to promptly detecting government fraud that he says is more likely to occur because of the economy and budget cuts.

"The best way to prevent fraud is to ensure every single front-line official - mayors, county commissioners, local employees, and citizens - to be on guard for what fraud looks like and how to prevent it," the Democratic Hamilton County commissioner said.

He said one of the first things he would do is bring in fraud experts from the private and public sectors for regional summits with local governments. He also threw his support behind a bill sought by Republican State Auditor Mary Taylor and sponsored by Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) that would boost protections for employees who blow the whistle.

He said he would expand on Ms. Taylor's fraud hot line and require the phone number to be posted in every government office in the state.

"The push is to make sure with all the issues people are facing - tight budgets, economic growth, and all other stuff - that this is a top priority," Mr. Pepper said.

He pointed to recent cases of fraud in Cuyahoga and Stark counties that went undetected for years.

Mr. Pepper is running against Republican Delaware County Prosecutor David Yost and Libertarian L. Michael Howard to replace Ms. Taylor as the state's top accountant. GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich has picked her as his running mate.

"You don't fight fraud by putting out press releases and having meetings,'' Yost campaign spokesman Matt Borges said. "Fraud is a serious issue in this state, and we've got a candidate for state auditor who is a prosecutor and will detect fraud the right way."

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