Civic beat // Council beefs up internal auditing

Share this:
December 21, 2009 // UPDATED 10:41 am - December 21, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes and Lana Walker
Cristof Traudes and Lana Walker
Council beefs up internal auditing

Following through on changes set up by the 2010 city budget, the City Council voted 11–2 to triple the city’s number of internal auditors.

The actions were preceded by an October report that said that for a city of its size, Minneapolis doesn’t have as many internal auditors as it should. It long has had just one, while places such as Atlanta, Portland and Seattle have as many as 15 full-time internal audit employees, according to the report.

With the vote, the council also created a new audit committee, which will be filled by three council members and three appointed citizens. Those appointments will be shared by the mayor’s office, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the council, although some concern was expressed about taking away audit oversight from the Board of Estimate and Taxation.

Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) attempted with an amendment to add one more seat to the audit committee, one that would be held by one of the two independently elected members of the Taxation Board. But that effort failed when none of his colleagues were willing to second his motion.

Carol Becker, one of the independently elected members and a staunch supporter of the Taxation Board, said she didn’t have much of a problem with the changes and the six-member version of the committee.

“I do support most of this,” Becker told council members, especially liking that the auditors now also will have a relationship with the City Coordinator’s office. Before, internal audit only reported to the Taxation Board, which the October report said has meant auditors have perhaps been more separated than they should have been.

Many on the council praised the changes.

“This adds additional resources in an area where they’re definitely needed,” Council Member Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward) said.

According to the report, by having had just one internal auditor the city wasn’t adequately tracking high-risk areas such as payroll and inventory management, leaving open the door to fraud.

County adopts 2010 budget

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 15 adopted the county’s 2010 budget, a smaller budget than 2009’s but one that the board decided still will warrant an almost 5 percent property tax increase.

That’s about 2 percent higher than what had been proposed. But with a threatening state budget forecast that’s expected to trickle down to local governments — Gov. Tim Pawlenty already has hinted that more unallotments could occur in early 2010 — commissioners decided to increase taxes to build a reserve for the future. Much of the tax increase also will go toward Hennepin County Medical Center, which is dealing with higher costs because of the elimination of General Assistance Medical Care.

The county will continue a hiring freeze in place since last year, while staff cuts and contract eliminations are expected. The total size of the budget is $1.6 billion, down from last year’s $1.7 billion.

The board approved the budget 5–2.

Appointment fills months-old Commission gap

The City Council unanimously approved the mayoral appointment of Erika Carter to the city Planning Commission. Carter will fill an unexpired term that lasts for about one more month, through Jan. 31.

The appointment took place almost five months after the unexpected resignation of Lara Norkus-Crampton, who left the commission in July over discontent with her colleagues’ use of the Uptown Small Area Plan.

Carter was raised in Minneapolis, worked in the office of former Gov. Jesse Ventura and spent several years in Washington as a senior policy analyst in the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She currently lives and works in Ward 7, where she is a senior policy advocate at Target Corp. Government Affairs. Carter represents Target with the Regional Council of Mayors and also sits on the steering committee of 2010 Partners, a public-private partnership focusing on infrastructure around new Target Field.

Boards honor outgoing members

The City Council and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board both took time in their final 2009 meetings to honor their outgoing members.

The council said goodbye to a one-termer (the 10th Ward’s Ralph Remington), a two-termer (the 11th Ward’s Scott Benson) and a three-term (the 1st Ward’s Paul Ostrow) during about an hour of presentations preceding the Dec. 18 council meeting.

Both the Park Board’s president and vice president lost their reelection bids and were presented honorary resolutions on Dec. 16. Tom Nordyke and Mary Merrill Anderson both served one term. District 4 Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom decided not to seek reelection after also serving a single term, while District 1 Commissioner Walt Dziedzic — who before his three-term Park Board tenure sat on the City Council for more than 20 years — decided to retire from public life.