The Most Important Person In The City spoke four words at the San Diego City Council meeting that made him so significant.

“Will you make it your top priority to verify that the conditions have been met in order to initiate the tax once you have received confirmation from the council, the [chief operating officer]?” City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner asked City Auditor Eduardo Luna during Wednesday’s meeting.

“I would,” Luna replied.

“That would be a top priority with you?” Lightner pushed.

“It would,” Luna said. Then Luna returned to his seat in council chambers.

When the City Council decided to put a financial reform package on November’s ballot, it put its financial future not only in voters’ hands, but also Luna’s.

Should the ballot measure pass, Luna will be the one to decide if the city met the financial reforms required for the city to raise the sales tax.

With the city needing to solve a $70 million-plus deficit by June 2011, Luna undoubtedly will face pressure from all sides to evaluate the reforms.

His role in the measure evolved during the last two weeks as the council tried to find a balance between independent verification the city had met its reform requirements and warnings from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that the council couldn’t give up its authority.

Lightner pushed for the most radical option Goldsmith said was legal: Giving the auditor the sole power to determine if the reforms had been met.

The process might seem objective, but many of the reform targets are imprecise — take “Reduce Retiree Health Costs,” for example — leaving much to Luna’s discretion.

Luna has rarely clashed publicly with Mayor Jerry Sanders or the City Council since he became the city’s first independent auditor in April 2009 following a city charter change. Luna is serving a 10-year term and reports to the city’s Audit Committee, not the Mayor’s Office or council.

— LIAM DILLON

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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