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City Council bats aside Pratt’s objections and passes audits bill

Controversial – and much amended – measure wins final approval in a New York minute.

council passes audit bill

City Council President “Jack” Young presides over tonight’s Council meeting. Facing away from the camera in the foreground are Council members Helen Holton and Edward Reisinger.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

After storms of controversy, a bill calling on Baltimore voters to decide if municipal agencies should be regularly audited passed the City Council as quickly as a summer squall.

The 14-member Council passed the legislation this evening seconds after the bill was announced on third and final reader.

There was no discussion. The bill now goes to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is expected to sign the measure since she won significant concessions when the bill went before the Council last month.

The only dissent came from City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who voted no after the Council vote without explanation. Young had earlier pronounced the bill “completely watered down” by amendments from the Rawlings-Blake administration.

Those amendments, passed tonight, require 13 city agencies to be audited every fourth year.

The original bill called on annual audits for all city agencies and was spurred by the “open secret” – publicized by citizen activists (here and here) – that some departments have not been audited in more than 25 years.

Pratt Asks for Changes

The only drama at tonight’s meeting came via a letter submitted by Comptroller Joan M. Pratt. She called on the Council to amend the bill to avoid “substantial duplication of effort” between her audit department and any independent accounting firm selected by city agencies for their fourth-year audits.

Her last-minute changes would have almost certainly delayed the legislation because amendments on third reader require 12 Council votes to pass. And any delay in tonight’s passage would have prevented the bill from meeting the deadline for charter amendments to appear on the November ballot.

One Councilman said the Pratt amendments had merit but were simply too late. Pratt has come under fire for the paucity of audits her office has conducted in recent years.

Under the bill, 13 city agencies would be independently audited every four years beginning in 2014: Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC), Finance, Fire, General Services, Housing and Community Development, Human Resources, Law, Planning, Police, Public Works, Recreation and Parks, Transportation and the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT).

In the 2013 budget, Mayor Rawlings-Blake has allocated additional funds for filling about four auditor positions in the Comptroller’s office that are currently vacant.

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  • Kim Trueheart

    OK … The Comptroller says she has authority to DO More, Let’s she if she exercises her muscle, because I’ve heard her FY 2013 Audit Plan has 36 audits scheduled.  I’m enjoying the fight ladies, but one day I hope you’ll both realize the struggle is about what’s best for BMore and NOT yourselves. 

  • Kim Trueheart

    Ok it’s done.  Comptroller Pratt say she has the authority to conduct more audits than prescribed in the charter amendment (12), so let’s see if she exercises her muscle.  I hear that her FY 2013 Audit Plan has 33 audits scheduled which sounds promising.  I just wish these 2 young ladies understood that this struggle is about BMore’s future and NOT their own.

  • Lex Apostata

    I’m not clear on one thing — are these actual financial audits or the BS “performance audits” that were proposed and defeated earlier? Is there a link to the text of the bill as passed?

    Once again we are confronted with Comptroller Pratt tacitly admitting that she is incapable of doing her job. I suppose she didn’t learn from Pat Jessamy that — despite appearances — not even a Baltimore Democratic machine politician is guaranteed a job for life.

  • baltimorebrew

    Lex A: These will be financial audits. The one victory of the pro-audit forces was defeating (by a tie vote on July 16) SRB’s plan to have only “performance audits” of the 12 city agencies listed in this post.

    But remember: none of financial audits will begin until 2014. -MR

  • Skypie6

    BS BS BS … Performance audits is equivalent to a report card. We don’t need a report card of Baltimore City Government, we need accountability. An audit is a formal examination & verification of financial accounts, this is an assessment. The Mayor and City CON ARTIST refuse to give the residents of Baltimore City an audit. Audit Baltimore Housing ASAP!

    • Lex Apostata

      See below. It appears that financial audits are also part of the package.

      Given the apparent disarray of the city’s books, I can live with delaying the first audit to 2014. Launching an audit tomorrow of an agency that hasn’t been audited in 30 years is going to be useless anyhow. All we will learn is what we already know: that its record-keeping is horrible and that it’s impossible to do a meaningful audit.

      Let’s hope that the various agencies spend the next two years getting their books in order so that the audits can be done as scheduled. With two years of lead-time, there will be no excuse for a non-conforming or non-compliant audit when they start in 2014.

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