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The San Diego City Council is scheduled today to revisit one of the final outstanding issues, the selection of an independent auditor, in this year’s push to get constitutional changes in front of voters in 2008 and 2010.

The changes to the city charter, which is essentially the city’s constitution, would establish the position of an internal auditor to inspect City Hall’s reporting of its financial condition. The position takes on additional importance in San Diego, where the city was sanctioned for securities fraud last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to fully disclose the depths of its financial troubles.

As with many of the proposed charter changes, the debate surrounding how this auditor should be appointed has come down to how much power should be bestowed to the mayor.

The Charter Reform Committee put together by Mayor Jerry Sanders recommended that the mayor appoint the auditor with the council’s confirmation. But City Councilwoman Donna Frye has resisted that proposal, saying it would be improper for the mayor to oversee a position that will essentially be a watchdog of the mayor’s financial team.

Supporters of the mayor have threatened to take a separate slate of charter reforms to the ballot if the City Council doesn’t place its preferred measures before voters. The mayor’s supporters would have to gather signatures to place the measures on the ballot; the City Council can do so with a simple vote.

There are three options for the appointment that were discussed at the last council hearing on the matter:

  • The city’s Audit Committee would appoint the auditor and it would be confirmed by the council.
  • The auditor would be appointed by the mayor in consultation with the Audit Committee and confirmed by the council.
  • The Audit Committee, in consultation with the mayor, would appoint the auditor and the council would have confirmation powers.

The City Council will also consider a proposal that would take the power of raising council members’ salaries out of its hands and tie salaries to other measures, such as a percentage of judges’ pay.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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