San Diego Voters Will Decide How City Auditor Is Chosen
Friday, January 24, 2020
San Diego has been without a permanent auditor for nearly a year and a half — and a measure on the city’s March 3 ballot aims to fix that.
Measure D would amend the city charter so members of the San Diego City Council, not the mayor, would have the power to appoint the city auditor. The auditor is responsible for investigating waste, fraud and abuse at the city.
The proposed amendment to the City Charter won unanimous support from the City Council and mayor's office, and hasn't attracted any major opposition.
Its genesis dates back to May 2018. Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office said Faulconer would not be reappointing then-auditor Eduardo Luna to a second 10-year term, and instead would launch a nationwide search for a replacement.
Three months later, Luna, who had issued numerous reports criticizing city operations and at times publicly quarreled with city leadership, said he was resigning to take a similar job in Beverly Hills.
Faulconer's nationwide search for a new auditor concluded with a nominee who already worked at the city: DeeDee Alari, a deputy director in the City Treasurer's Office. Just days later, however, City Councilman Scott Sherman, who chairs the Audit Committee, tabled her nomination. He said the committee needed more time to review Alari's qualifications.
Sherman ultimately decided a complete overhaul of the auditor appointment process was necessary to ensure the next city auditor had total independence.
"The way it's set up now is you really have the mayor's office choosing who will oversee and hold accountable the mayor's office," Sherman said. "It's been said that's like choosing the fox that's going to be guarding the hen house."
Under the reforms in Measure D, the Audit Committee would forward at least three nominees to the full City Council. Council members would then make the final hiring decision.
"So many times we have found out and saved millions of dollars because of performance audits done by the auditor, and you want that person and that office to be completely independent of that body they're overseeing," Sherman said.
Measure D would also limit the auditor's service to two five-year terms, which Sherman said would incentivize good performance.
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