Top state auditor let go as part of Lombardo admin requested ‘leadership change’
The top auditor of Nevada state agencies said he was made to leave his role earlier this month after officials from Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office told him they wanted a “change in leadership.”
Warren Lowman had worked within the state’s Division of Internal Audits for the past 16 1/2 years and has served as its administrator for the last five years. His departure was not publicly announced by the state, and he is still listed as the administrator on the internal audit staff website as of Tuesday afternoon.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Lowman declined to discuss specific details about the audits he’d been working on but said the Jan. 2 request to step down came as a “surprise.”
“I was never given any indication that they weren't happy with my performance,” Lowman told The Nevada Independent. “We had had several executive branch audit committee meetings, and there was never any feedback on the substance of those in a negative way. I've been doing what I've always been doing.”
He said he had a previous discussion with a member of the governor’s staff that he felt may have bordered on ageism (Lowman is 66), but Lowman didn’t offer any more details about the incident.
Lombardo’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Ray, declined to address emailed questions about the reason for the leadership change, whether Lowman’s audits presented problems or if the governor’s office had given him any indication it was unhappy with his performance.
“Our office is unable to comment on personnel issues,” Ray wrote in an emailed response.
Recent audits from the division have spurred discussions on how the state compensates inmate firefighters, revealed a lack of transparency from the contractor running a state veterans nursing home and showed a need for improved management of transportation services by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
The notification came as Lowman and the division have been creating an audit under a Lombardo executive order to compile third-party audits assessing school districts and charter schools. The division has also been doing some other audit work on collective bargaining agreements that the governor requested and a follow-up on a previous audit assessing the Department of Administration’s handling of the state office building purchases.
Lowman served under four administrations of both parties while at the Division of Internal Audits. He said he’s never received a complaint about his audits, and working with the governor’s office on the recent audits was a “collaborative process” that didn’t turn up any issues.
He said he and his team met all the required deadlines. As someone who served for 23 years in the military, he said, he is used to offering input, following orders and supporting the governor’s decisions.
“We let the evidence take us to where it takes us. Lots of times, we get audit information from staff members who we are auditing. We get fraud, waste and abuse hotline calls,” Lowman said. “The audit process itself is fairly detailed and robust … I was never informed that anybody had a problem with how we were approaching this.”