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The proposed restructuring of the city of San Diego’s audit function inched closer to the ballot box today after a citizens subcommittee approved a host of reforms Friday.

Under the current proposal, the balance of authority over the city’s Audit Committee and internal auditor would be shared between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council. Currently, the auditor is controlled overwhelmingly by the mayor and council members are the sole seat holders on the Audit Committee, but both branches of government had pressed for more authority over the audit function in recent months.

A subcommittee of the Charter Review Committee recommended that the Audit Committee, which has been comprised of three council members since being created this winter, would be expanded to five members.

The subcommittee proposed that two Audit Committee seats be held by council members, one of whom would serve as chair. The remaining three seats would be held by members of the public appointed by the council. The citizen appointees would have to be screened by a panel comprised of a council member, the mayor’s chief financial officer, the city attorney, the independent budget analyst and two outside financial experts before entering the pool of applicants from which the council can choose.

Under the subcommittee’s proposal, the internal auditor would be separated from the current audit & comptroller position and named the “city auditor.” The city auditor would be required to be a certified public accountant or a certified internal auditor before being appointed.

The auditor would be appointed by the mayor in consultation with the Audit Committee and subject to the City Council’s confirmation. The watchdog official would be hired to a 10-year term, but the Audit Committee would have the authority to fire him or her with a four-fifths vote. The fired auditor could appeal to the City Council, which would need a two-thirds vote to override the Audit Committee’s decision.

The full Charter Review Committee will consider the subcommittee’s recommendations Sept. 20. The hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers, located at 202 C St.

The committee’s proposals will serve as the groundwork the City Council will use when drawing up the ballot initiative that is expected to go to voters in June 2008.

(Update: Due to incorrect information given by a mayoral aide, the original version of this post misstated the number of votes needed to fire the auditor and overturn the firing of the auditor.)

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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