Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto accumulated more than $71,000 in legal bills in the first four months of 2016 as she pursues a lawsuit against three Minnesota counties.

The legal challenge stems from changes the Legislature made in 2015 to Otto's responsibilities, which allowed counties to outsource required financial audits rather than submit to the state auditor. She argues the changes violated the Minnesota Constitution. 

Otto said in a prepared statement on Tuesday that "I loathe incurring" the costs of the taxpayer-funded lawsuit, but says the Legislature gave her no choice. "I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and that is exactly what I am doing through the lawsuit," Otto said. 

Otto racked up more than $100,000 in legal bills in 2015. The invoices she released on Tuesday covered only January through April, and totaled $71,664,44.

Since that time, lawyers for Otto and the defendants have made several court appearances, meaning more bills are likely forthcoming.

Otto, a DFLer, has been elected state auditor three times. She is up for re-election again in 2018. 

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