State Auditor Matt Dunlap (right) chats with Secretary of State Shenna Bellows after her election to the post at the Augusta Civic Center on Dec. 2, 2020. At far left is Attorney General Aaron Frey. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — State Auditor Matt Dunlap said Friday that he would leave his position after failing to pass the necessary exams to obtain a certification necessary to stay in the position.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, has the authority to nominate another person for the office, something that could happen when the Maine Legislature returns in January. Dunlap said he would be interested in retaking the position if he can get certified by that time, but Deputy State Auditor Melissa Perkins will assume control of the office in the interim.

Dunlap, a Democrat who served as secretary of state for 14 years during two stints between 2005 and 2021, was elected auditor by the Legislature last December despite no background in auditing or finance. Under Maine law, he had nine months after taking office to become certified as a public accountant, information systems auditor or internal auditor.

In a Friday letter to Jackson, Dunlap said he failed the second and third exams required to become an internal auditor last month and would not be allowed to retake them for 60 days, which made it impossible for him to become certified within the legal window.

After hiring a tutor and taking a course at the University of Maine at Augusta, Dunlap said he needed to answer 260 questions correctly across the tests and fell five short. He said he has “learned so much” in the job and would keep trying to get certified if only to prove he can do it.

“I’ve been hammering it now for nine months and I just came a little short,” he said.

Dunlap’s candidacy led to eye-rolling from Republicans who criticized his lack of credentials. He was candid about being “utterly unqualified” for the job while arguing that he had experience in running an important office. Democrats flexed their legislative majorities to install him in January.

The next permanent auditor will have to be confirmed by the Maine Senate. When asked if Jackson would consider renominating Dunlap if he is qualified, Christine Kirby, the Senate president’s spokesperson, said her boss “isn’t ruling anything out.”

She added that Jackson is reviewing the law and working to understand his options before determining a next move. A spokesperson for Senate Republicans declined comment.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...