The San Diego City Council decided this evening to again postpone a decision on a ballot measure that would determine how the new position of a city auditor will be selected.

Two weeks ago, the council approved a motion calling for the auditor to be appointed by the mayor and serve a 10-year term. However, with Councilwoman Donna Frye voicing concerns that the independence of the position could be compromised if appointed by the mayor, the council put off a final decision until later in the month.

Generally, management should not be involved in the selection process of the audit, Frye said, because the auditor will be tasked with inspecting management’s work for errors or fraud. She suggested that the auditor be selected by the audit committee and then approved by the council. She struggled to find reasoning behind the consultation with the mayor.

“Show me anything in … in governing auditing standards — one sentence, one word, one phrase — that says it’s acceptable for management to participate in the selection of an auditor,” she said.

Council President Scott Peters suggested an alternative — that the auditor be appointed by the audit committee, in consultation with the mayor and confirmed by the council — so that there was at least “communication with the executive branch.” His suggestion failed 4 to 2, with Frye and Councilman Kevin Faulconer voting against it. Councilmen Tony Young and Ben Hueso were absent.

The auditor item was one of several combined into one ballot measure that would decide the make-up and selection of an audit committee and make permanent the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst. The City Council approved those items today, leaving the auditor selection to be dealt with later.

The issues are all part of a larger overhaul of the city charter, essentially the city’s constitution, that comes in the wake of the city’s 2006 switch to the strong-mayor form of government.

The council yesterday approved a corresponding ballot initiative that would ask voters in 2010 to make strong mayor permanent, add a ninth council seat and alter the number of votes needed to override the mayor’s veto.

Many of the contentious issues surrounding the proposed charter changes have focused on the balance of power between the mayor and the City Council, with the mayor’s supporters threatening to place their own competing initiatives on the ballot should the council stray too far from their recommendations.

A spokeswoman for the group didn’t return a call this evening for comment.


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