This post has been updated.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, reeling from a new law allowing counties to hire private audit firms to review their finances, said in a statement she has hired outside counsel "to help me assess the implications of this law and its impact on the core function of auditing."
The new law, hatched under middle-of-the-night circumstances and opposed by Gov. Mark Dayton despite signing it, would allow counties to hire private firms instead of contracting with the office the State Auditor, a constitutionally elected position.
Otto has questioned the law's constitutionality and said it could threaten the interests of Minnesota's taxpayers because the auditor, rather than private firms, can better guarantee a thorough accounting of public finances. Some counties and legislators respond that local government can save money by contracting with private firms because the State Auditor charges more for the audits.
Otto has hired the firm of Fredrikson & Byron to be outside counsel.
Update: The Associated Press first reported the outside counsel, paid $21,000 in public money so far, according to public records it obtained.