Hoffer proposes $488,000 addition to auditor’s office

The state auditor is asking for the Legislature to approve a $488,000 addition to his office on State Street.

Doug Hoffer says that now that his office is fully staffed — he has 15 full-time workers in his employ — the 1,740 square foot building is no longer big enough. One employee is working in a hallway; another is housed in a building next door and the conference room has been partitioned into two offices.

The auditor's office is at 132 State Street in Montpelier. Auditor's office photo

The auditor’s office is at 132 State Street in Montpelier. Auditor’s office photo

The 1,200-square-foot, two-story addition is a “bare bones” project, Hoffer says. The addition would include new office space, a garage, a new staircase, mechanical improvements, a small porch and an accessibility ramp. Renovations to the historic building are not part of the plan. The cost would be roughly $400 a square foot.

Hoffer is asking lawmakers for a $20,000 feasibility study this year to prepare for the addition.

“This was entirely driven by my observation that professional staff were working in less than optimal office space,” Hoffer told lawmakers on Thursday.

The auditor’s proposal — complete with floor plan, elevations and construction estimates — was greeted with a less than enthusiastic response from the House Corrections and Institutions Committee. The project is not on the committee’s 10-year must-build list, and the state is already in the middle of three big-ticket construction projects — the Waterbury State Office Complex, the Health Lab and the Vermont Psychiatric Care Center.

Rep. Alice Emmons gently suggested that perhaps the auditor could move to an already open space in the capital complex in Montpelier.

Hoffer bristled at the idea. “I don’t want to be blended, spindled, folded in with other offices — we need to remain independent,” he said to the committee.

Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, said the auditor could trade spaces with the Vermont Commission on Women and military affairs, located three doors down. “We’re having a hard time spending that much money,” she explained.

“We’re not saying we’re going to meld you in with executive branch,” Emmons said. “We’re looking at other buildings that are out there that may be more suitable for your needs instead of investing money in this building that may be suitable for someone else’s needs. That’s an option we need to look at first.”

Michael Obuchowski, the commissioner of the Department of Buildings and General Services, told lawmakers the project “isn’t a slam dunk right now.” He is now reviewing the list for fiscal year 2016 projects, and he says “very frankly” the project needs are “scary.” The fiscal year 2015 capital bill is roughly $180 million, according to a spreadsheet from the Joint Fiscal Office, and it includes expenditures on the Waterbury State Office Complex. Next year’s capital budget could be $134 million, Obuchowski said.

Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Florence, said Hoffer needed to get the approval of the capital commission for the project.

“You might want to consider a relocation plan,” Shaw said. “You’re not even in the 10-year plan. We’d have to push someone off the list.”

Link to perspective drawing for new addition.

Link to floor plan for new addition.

Anne Galloway

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30 Comments on "Hoffer proposes $488,000 addition to auditor’s office"

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Patrick Cashman
2 years 7 months ago

One correction.
The statement; “he has 15 full-time workers in his employ ” is wholly incorrect. The State of Vermont allocates the work of 15 State employees to the duties of the Auditor of Accounts. They are not employees of Mr. Hoffer.
On a side note, would it be possible to publish the provided floor plans? The picture provided doesn’t seem to jive with the statement of the Auditor that the house is 1,740 square feet.

2 years 7 months ago

$400 a square foot? Who the hell are the contractors? $20,000 for a feasibility study? Shouldn’t they decide first if their going to move or add on? Seems there is no limit when it comes to making Government bigger!

Doug Hoffer
2 years 7 months ago
Anne A few points of clarification. First, I asked the Dept. of Buildings & General Services to draft plans for a modest addition to house four people. In the course of her work, the state architect (who did a fine job btw) determined there was a need for some work on the existing structure that has nothing to do with the proposed addition. This includes moving some of the electrical and mechanical equipment currently located in the basement, which is in the floodway, and blocking some windows in the basement to help protect against flood waters. And technically, the stairwell… Read more »
Patrick Cashman
2 years 7 months ago

Doug,
If there is underutilized space elsewhere, and it sure sounds like there is, then mere good stewardship of state resources demands you look to utilize that space first.

Doug Hoffer
2 years 7 months ago

To my knowledge, there is no underutilized office space in the capital complex. The reference to “open space” is about the future. The Agency of Education will be moving to a new building in Barre and the Dept. of Buildings & General Services is considering various options for the vacated space. There are a lot of moving parts and the Auditor’s Office is just one.

Patrick Cashman
2 years 7 months ago
Doug, So get in line with everyone else and wait. You seem to be making a lot of demands. You are demanding your section not share space with other offices. You are demanding you get more space immediately instead of waiting. You are demanding that your office not relocate. And you are demanding new construction. If safety concerns exist that need to be fixed then by all means fix them. But the state is not best served by catering to the whims of every department head. Out of curiosity; how many hours of state funded time have already been expended… Read more »
justin jackson
2 years 7 months ago

Call me crazy, but didn’t we elect you to shutdown pork barrel expenditures such as this? Shouldn’t you be spending all your time in other state offices auditing them anyway? Our taxes are already high enough. I don’t want .5 million more of my money invested in the beauocracy when you can just move into a state salt storage building or something. Just saying.

Michael Colby
2 years 7 months ago

After one – yes one — year in office this is his big project? I can’t wait for year two when Hoffer releases a plan to upgrade the Auditor’s status to that of the Governor.

Hoffer needs to spend less time commenting on blogs and planning office improvements and more time — all of it, perhaps — on audits.

Fred Woogmaster
2 years 7 months ago

Just goes to show ya and
Each to his own
This guy is just what
the State needs
and will prompt much
needed change over time –
in my view.

Doug Hoffer
2 years 7 months ago

Mr. Colby

Surely you would agree that the audit staff needs (and deserves) adequate space to do the work. In my view, meeting the needs of my staff is a big part of my job, whether it’s training, tools, or office space.

And as for the work, anyone can see the audits completed and in progress on the website.

http://auditor.vermont.gov/audits/performance

http://auditor.vermont.gov/sites/auditor/files/Audit_Calendar.pdf

justin jackson
2 years 7 months ago

So you are serving bread and water to the rest of the state while you are cooking pork.

Thomas Joseph
2 years 7 months ago
I applaud State Auditor Hoffer for advocating for the necessary space and resources that he needs to ensure his office fulfills its role to the citizens of our great state. The push back from state legislators is unfortunate. Perhaps, if the legislators knew that the State of Vermont Medicaid Fraud Unit actually accepts formal intakes on the suspicion of fraud from the public but doesn’t have adequate resources to pursue or follow up with those who provide formal intakes, they might recognize that its more critical than ever that Mr. Hoffer be given the necessary resources for the State Auditor’s… Read more »
Patrick Cashman
2 years 7 months ago

Mr. Joseph,
State employees are already protected from reprisal by state law. What Mr. Hoffer wants is to be able to use secret sources as the basis for investigations. That’s one small step towards “I have in my hand a list…”

It should also be mentioned that the growth in the office to 15, cited above as the justification for new construction, occurred when Mr. Hoffer made a secret, unadvertised and un-competed hire of a local reporter.

Andrew Stein
2 years 7 months ago

Actually, Patrick, our 15th man is named Jonathan Kingston. He has 15 years of auditing experience and is a military veteran, who fought in Afghanistan. He is a detail-oriented, common-sense thinker. The kind of guy any Vermonter should feel proud to have in the state’s government accountability office. He works in the hall because there is no room anywhere else in 132 State Street. To get your facts in line on the Office of the Vermont State Auditor’s staff, head here: http://auditor.vermont.gov/contact_us/staff

Patrick Cashman
2 years 7 months ago
Andrew, Thanks but I’m counting based on new positions not last in the door. Unless you maintain that the staff at your office has not grown under Mr. Hoffer’s time. Thanks for the link though, it is interesting to see that now Doug is describing your duties as “Executive Assistant” which, in addition to his personal secretary and a deputy, means the state is paying for a pretty ample personal staff. While I think it is great the auditor’s office is hiring a veteran with actual relevant experience that was not the case in your unadvertised and non-competitive hiring. Hopefully… Read more »
Thomas Joseph
2 years 7 months ago

Regardless of anyone’s opinion of Mr. Hoffer, I always admire those who advocate for their staff and fight for the resources needed to be successful. More importantly, Mr. Hoffer is the only elected official in Montpelier talking about what resources he needs for his staff to be successful given that the State of Vermont lacks adequate resources to fight fraud. He also happens to be the only public official in Montpelier doing anything to advocate for the interests of whistleblowers.

Thomas Joseph
2 years 7 months ago

Please review my original comment. I made no mention of the status of whether state employees were already protected. More importantly, I tried to highlight that little appetite exists in Monpelier to fight fraud with the exception of Mr. Hoffer’s latest efforts. I believe some could be misinterpreting the intention of Mr. Hoffer’s plans. Instead of recognizing that he is proactively going after the resources and tools that his office requires to fulfill its statutory obligations, many are essentially suggesting he is acting irresponsibly. Unless I missed it, didn’t Mr. Hoffer win the last election?

Adam Norton
2 years 7 months ago

First, the VSEA survey, which had over 600 responses, found that state employees do not believe that the existing statute protects them from reprisal. Second, to suggest that Hoffer intends to abuse his position like former Senator Joseph McCarthy is ludicrous. Attacking the state auditor for merely requesting the space necessary to allow his modest staff to work independently from the departments they are auditing just seems petty.

patrick cashman
2 years 7 months ago
First, that sounds like an education and representation failure of these employees by the VSEA.  The law was endorsed by VSEA in 2008, to include providing testimony in support of it (per March 14 2008 Rutland Herald and the Sep 2008 Progressives’ endorsement of Pollina).  The VSEA got what they wanted, so spend the time to figure out how to use it to meet the intent of the statute you asked for. Second, no one expected McCarthy to abuse his position either.  However the time to get in front of these things is before they happen.  In the Auditor’s case… Read more »
Ann Meade
2 years 7 months ago

I don’t know Doug Hoffer personally but I have always been impressed by his thoughtful posts and his obvious commitment to his position and the state. I can’t imagine why he would open this can of worms unless it was necessary. Those buildings on State Street clearly need to be maintained and updated. I for one would much rather do that than spend more money on rent at National Life which seems to be the answer for all space issues in state government.

patrick cashman
2 years 7 months ago

Ms Meade,
Please note that Mr. Hoffer did not identify a need, he instead demanded a particular solution. He could have raised whatever space issue he believes exists to the Building and General Services folks and asked for help and suggestions. Instead he had a state employee draw up plans and said “build me this, now.”

David Dempsey
2 years 7 months ago
I was a controller for a Vermont college and I worked with independant auditors for the schools financials, state auditors who monitored state grants, federal auditors for federal grants and auditors for private grant foundations. The purpose of these audits was to make sure the money gets spent the way it is suppose to be spent. Auditors follow the money to make sure that the college spent the money according to our own policies and procedures, and that we are also are in compliance with all state, federal or other grantors regulations. In Vermont, the Auditor is responsible for all… Read more »
Jim Barrett
2 years 7 months ago

I would like to suggest that the number of employees be reduced and thus making more space avaiable to everyone. However in government reducing anything that costs the taxpaers money is almost ciminal. This spending farce goes on at the town level, the state and National level. The total number of employees is the question and should be reviewed immediately and reduced.

Adam Norton
2 years 7 months ago

From the perspective of someone who witnesses the waste and incompetence in state government on a daily basis, the auditors staff should be doubled, not reduced. Moreover, the auditors office receives only about 10% of it’s funding from the state general fund.

Jed Guertin
2 years 7 months ago
Patrick Cashman states “State employees are already protected from reprisal by state law.” It would be a good idea if Cashman knew what he was talking about. As a whistleblower, I can assure you that state employees are not protected from reprisal, not by a long shot. Doug Hoffer’s attempt to create a realistic open environment for those in state government to speak out is to be lauded. These issues are at best complex and require focus, something a hallway office can’t afford. I can guarantee you that if he were around when I spoke out the State would be… Read more »
patrick cashman
2 years 7 months ago

You might want to review the Vermont Statutes.  Title 3, Chapter 27, specifically sub-chapter 4A titled “Whistleblower Protection”.  From that sub-chapter:   “971. Intent of subchapter  A state employee, as a trustee and servant of the people, shall be free to report, in good faith and with candor, waste, fraud, abuse of authority, violations of law, or a threat to the health of employees, the public, or persons under the care of the state without fear of reprisal, intimidation, or retaliation. (Added 2007, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. May 13, 2008.)

Jed Guertin
2 years 7 months ago
Dear Mr. Cashman, It’s funny you should mention the statute. I’ve read the statute, more than a few times, and can say with authority it’s both useless and toothless. There’s nothing straight forward about whistleblowing, the statute is nothing more than a feel good piece of legislation. Sounds nice, but with no teeth. And the issue I blew the whistle over (1995) is still having a significant financial impact on the State today. Doug Hoffer has hit on an issue that could save the state of VT millions of dollars a year. His efforts could more than pay for his… Read more »
Ken Pidgeon
2 years 7 months ago

Wow! Hats off to VTDigger. This article inspired comments and responses from the public, the State Auditor, at least one of his staff, and the Journalist herself. Excellent job Anne.

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