OLYMPIA -- State Auditor Brian Sonntag has announced he will retire next year.
Sonntag said in an email Monday that he made "a difficult decision not to seek re-election" in the past week. He will leave office when his term expires at the end of 2012.
"It was a tough call, but it is the right decision." Sonntag wrote. "At the end of my current term, I will have served 20 years in this office and 40 years in public service -- 35 in elected office. Based on what we have accomplished and what we will continue to do in behalf of citizens, the 2012 election is the right time for the office to transition to new leadership.
"During my service as state auditor, I am proud that we have become strong advocates for Washington taxpayers," Sonntag said. "We raised the visibility and enhanced the credibility of the office, brought national recognition to our work, put the audit focus on the most risky areas, vigorously pursued fraud, seized on performance audit authority, engaged the public, and advocated giving citizens greater access to their government.
"My personal thanks to you for recognizing the value of this office and the constitutional role it must play. You helped make citizens aware of what audit can do to make government work better for all of us."
Jason Mecier with the Washington Policy Center said Sonntag's announcement was "a surprise." He said that under Sonntag's leadership, "open government reforms took center stage and the long overdue authority for the citizens' independently elected auditor to conduct comprehensive performance audits was finally restored. His efforts to improve government accountability casts a long shadow that will continue to be seen for years to come."
According to The Seattle Times today, Sonntag's office has expanded in scope since voters authorized the state auditor to conduct performance audits when they approved Initiative 900 in 2005. Initiative 900 dedicates 0.16 percent of the state sales tax to pay for the program, which has provided millions of dollars to conduct audits.
Sonntag, a Democrat, briefly considered running for governor in 2012, but decided not to in July.