At the last City Council meeting Michele Monda spoke on the need for CPAs on the Audit Oversight Committee. This committee oversees the audit of Laguna’s $100 million budget, our tax money, but not one CPA is to be found. Currently there is a writer, Deputy Chief of Police, real estate investor, etc. City Manager John Pietig appears to believe no CPAs, qualified experts or audit experience is necessary. City Council, elected to represent and protect residents, was alarmingly silent. None of them are CPAs, and they don’t know which rocks to look under either. If you don’t know where to look, you definitely won’t find anything. That’s why training and expertise are essential to the committee.
In response to Ms. Monda, the city manager defended this lack of true oversight, stating the city’s outside auditors have CPAs. Yes, but this audit firm was hand-selected by the city manager and is paid by the city, a cozy multi-year relationship. Not one CPA on city staff either. City Treasurer Laura Parisi is a CPA, but she’s not allowed any input—why?
Even the outside audit firm found many issues with the city’s finances, but City Manager Pietig downplayed the adverse findings. Perhaps most egregious is that ending balances did not agree with beginning balances. Who is holding the city accountable? Certainly not the city itself, nor the Audit Oversight Committee.
Why is the city manager seemingly afraid of CPAs/auditors on this committee? There should be at least two CPAs to give the committee legitimacy and ensure our money is handled properly and transparently. Committee meetings are open, but there is virtually no public input allowed. The committee is comprised of the same Measure LL Oversight Committee members, rewarding those who supported the LL tax increase. Not a single committee member opposed the tax increase. Seems like putting foxes in charge of the hens. None were vetted to oversee a $100 million budget.
Committee findings will be presented on Feb. 4. Are they an effective oversight, or rubber stamps without the training and experience to know which rocks to turn over? If rocks are turned, will they know what they are looking at? Will the city be held accountable for deficiencies in previous audits? Why is the city afraid of sunshine on the books?
Jennifer Zeiter, Laguna Beach
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