Citing a desire to increase his office's investigative capacity, State Auditor Doug Hoffer said Monday he's hired VTDigger reporter Andrew Stein to serve as his executive assistant.
"I want more subjects covered," Hoffer said. "I want more product."
Stein, an alumnus of the Addison County Independent, has covered health care and energy for VTDigger since September 2012. He said he plans to leave the online news outlet in a month and join Hoffer's office November 25.
"I was not actively seeking this position, but when the auditor approached me about the position he was essentially offering me a stethoscope to examine state government," Stein said. "This will give me the opportunity to better understand the issues that I investigate regularly and to investigate them in a much more thorough and meaningful way than I have time to."
According to Hoffer, Stein will be charged with conducting research and investigations with the "rigor" of a full-blown audit, but in a shorter time frame. He said he modeled the position, which has remained unfilled throughout his nearly 10 months in office, on one filled by former Burlington Free Press and Vermont Guardian reporter Shay Totten during former state auditor Liz Ready's tenure. (Totten later worked for Seven Days.)
Hoffer said he was particularly interested in hiring Stein because of the reporter's work covering health care reform, a topic the auditor said his office was likely to focus on in the near future. He emphasized that, unlike many ex-reporters who enter government service, Stein would not be focused on public relations.
"This is absolutely not a political job," Hoffer said. "We don't have political jobs at the auditor's office. I don't. Absolutely not."
VTDigger editor and co-publisher Anne Galloway said Monday she's disappointed Stein is leaving. She said the news outlet would immediately seek to fill Stein's position.
"He's been a great reporter and we're really sad to lose him," Galloway said. "He's become an expert on health care reform in Vermont."
Galloway said she would seek to avoid potential conflicts of interest during the remaining weeks of Stein's tenure by barring him from reporting on Hoffer and the auditor's office.