Auditing the auditor

By Gilbert Garcia

When Mayor Phil Hardberger unveiled SA's new City Auditor Committee at City Hall this morning, there was no denying how problematic the auditor position has been for local leaders.

Hardberger cited the brief but thorny history of SA City Auditors, blaming past confusion on the fact that "we didn't have a history with it, so there were no guidelines." He added that auditor oversight has been done "on a temporary basis, because we had nothing to go by." Even new City Auditor Committee Chairwoman (and District 6 Councilwoman) Delicia Herrera called the auditor provision in the City Charter "awkward," and commended Hardberger for bringing some clarity to the situation.

Hardberger and co. are still reeling from the PR fiasco of Pete Gonzales's 2008 firing from the auditor position, after he'd recommended that the City audit its playground-inspection program. City leaders argued that he'd overstepped his bounds and he was quickly fired. Days later, the Express-News reported that the City had failed to properly inspect local playgrounds and that 15 of those playgrounds posed safety risks.

The new City Audit Committee, which replaces a two-member Council subcommittee, includes Herrera and fellow Councilmembers Phil Cortez and Louis Rowe, along with Stanley Blend, a tax lawyer with Oppenheimer Blend Harrison & Tate and Manuel Long, a CPA with Sol Schwartz & Associates.

Blend, widely recognized as one of the best tax attorneys in the country, donated $1,450 to Hardberger's two successful mayoral campaigns, and also attended Hardberger's alma mater: Georgetown Law School.