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City Controller Restricted

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A court decision has robbed city controller Wendy Greuel of the power to do performance reviews of other elected officials, though Greuel is expected to appeal the decision.

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The L.A. Times in an editorial tries to explain how important it is for the city for Greuel to appeal, and win:

The question is the scope of the power the controller won when voters in 1999 adopted a new City Charter that provides for "performance audits" -- probes and reports that gauge the efficiency of city operations. Then-City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said Chick's power did not extend to programs housed in the offices of elected officials, and he sued when she tried to audit the performance of the workers compensation functions of his office.

....Allowing the ruling to stand would mean that city officials could shield programs from appraisal by the controller simply by moving them under the direct authority of the mayor, the city attorney or a council member.

The Times has called on the City Council to ask voters to clarify the controller's powers with a ballot measure, and we reiterate support for such a move if the judge does not reverse his decision on appeal....

....[Many argue] that allowing the controller to audit programs housed in other politicians' offices will encourage the controller to use her power to punish her enemies and build support for a run for higher office.....But the voters serve as the check on any controller excesses.

The Daily News has more details on the decision, and the reaction:

Deputy City Attorney Valerie Flores, who argued the case, said they were pleased to see "clarity as to how the City Charter reads."...

If Greuel does file an appeal, Flores said the City Attorney's office will meet with the City Council to determine whether to further fight the case. Greuel hopes for an opportunity to have the case argued before a higher court.

[Former controller Laura Chick, who launched the suit, says:] "In fact this decision makes this worse than before. Not only does it preclude performance audits of programs in elected officials' offices, it also bars them in all offices including Finance, Treasurer, City Clerk, Chief Legislative Analyst and Chief Administrative Officer."

Previous City of Angles blogging on this city attorney v. city attorney showdown.

(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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