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City Council Approves Neutered Audit Bill

Watered-down bill calls for audits of 13 city agencies once every four years.

After attempting to pass a bill requiring annual audits of all city agencies, the City Council has weakened the effort multiple times and, on Monday night, finally passed, by a 14-to-1 margin (Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young was the only “no”), a watered-down bill that calls for audits of 13 major city agencies on a once-every-four-years schedule, beginning in 2014.

Two key citizen backers of the effort to require scheduled audits of city agencies say the current bill, which now becomes a ballot measure to amend the city charter, is too weak and should be voted down.

“If this issue goes to the ballot, as drafted, it will be a referendum on every elected official in city hall. The discussion and debate around the issue will be sufficient to attract the interest, deservedly so, of the Republican Party,” former Recreation and Parks Director Chris Delaporte wrote in an e-mail to City Councilman Carl Stokes (D-12th District), the bill’s chief sponsor, on Aug. 8. “Right now, with what is coming up for a vote, you will be asking our citizens to keep us in last place among these 26 largest cities in the nation when it comes to auditing its government.”

Mary Ernish, a Westside resident whose research into other cities’ audit processes has helped shape the debate about the bill, also says the watered-down version passed by a split council at its last meeting is too weak.

Although Comptroller Joan Pratt has said her office needs more resources to do more audits, with a budget of $3.9 million and 37 authorized positions, Baltimore’s audit division appears better staffed than most cities of comparable size.

Stokes soldiers on. “I don’t think we ought to derail this whole thing at this point, because we might not see audits for the rest of this decade,” he said just days before the final vote.

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