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Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | City Councilwoman Donna Frye writes in opposition to Proposition C, “None of the five largest cities in the United States allow their mayor to appoint the city auditor.”

She forgot to add the following note, “None of the five largest cities in the United States have been forced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to hire a Monitor to track city’s finances n but San Diego has.”

As voiceofsandiego.org recently noted, SEC monitor Stanley Keller disagrees with Frye on how the Auditor should be appointed. In February he wrote, “The alternative of appointment by the Mayor, in consultation with the Audit Committee, and confirmation by the City Council, assuming the existence of the other elements of tenure, professional qualifications and reporting responsibilities is most consistent with this (independent audit) model.”

Mr. Keller was selected to meet the SEC’s high standards because he chaired the American Bar Association’s Committee on Federal Regulation of Securities during the height of the Sarbanes-Oxley debate. He also serves as chairman of the ABA Committee on Audit Responses. While Frye routinely claims that the method in Prop. C by which the independent auditor gets named is not “the preferred” method, she is just plain wrong.

Frye believes the audit function should be vested totally under the control of the City Council. She has perhaps been talking to different people than the dozens of citizens I have talked to in my role as president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Most of them are less convinced than Frye that the Council should have unchecked power over the audit function.

Most taxpayers want a balance of power so no one can ever again pull the wool over our eyes n- and that includes the Council.

Donna has won over a disgruntled former City Auditor, John Torell, who opposes Prop. C. However, his positions are somewhat contradictory. The City Council followed the advice he gave in a 2006 report and subsequent voiceofsandiego.org interview. Among his comments, notice the way Prop. C responds to his (then) sound advice,

  • Torrell: “In order to effectively carry out the role of the Auditor and Comptroller, the office must be independent or free from the control or influence of others in the normal chain of command.”

    Prop. C: Upon confirmation by the City Council, the auditor reports exclusively to an independent audit committee on which there are neither mayoral appointees nor any representative of the Mayor’s office.

  • voiceofsandiego.org, paraphrasing Torell: “He said he would rather the position be appointed to a term of 10 years.”
  • Prop C: When confirmed by the Council, the auditor is appointed to a term of 10 years.
  • voiceofsandiego.org, paraphrasing Torell: “and that the council be able to fire him with a unanimous vote.”
  • Prop C: The auditor can only be terminated for legal cause, and upon majority recommendation from the independent audit committee and thereafter by a supermajority confirmation of the City Council.
  • voiceofsandiego.org paraphrasing Torell: “Another option, he said, would be to have a few council members and some private citizens serve as an audit committee, which would directly supervise the City Auditor’s Office.”
  • ,
  • Prop C: The Audit Committee includes two council members and three qualified public members appointed by the Council, not subject to Mayoral veto.

Mr. Torell now lives in Santa Barbara, not San Diego. Perhaps this is a case of “different latitudes, different attitudes?”

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