It was a situation that elected leaders acknowledged was confusing, and they had received some complaints from the public that questioned how the city's in-house accountant could perform an independent audit.
John McAlister pulled the item off the consent agenda, saying he believed the city should look outside its ranks for an auditor.
"I'm not saying anything we've done in the past is bad or inappropriate, but here's an opportunity to get some fresh eyes on the subject," he said. "Let's take a look at this more in depth and see if there's benefit in getting an outside auditor."
Part of the confusion stemmed from the nature of the audit. In accordance with state law, Mountain View conducts a comprehensive annual financial report, a mandatory audit conducted by an outside firm that summarizes all of the city's assets. That report typically is completed late in the calendar year.
But separately, Mountain View's city charter also stipulates that elected leaders need to appoint a "city auditor" to fill an as-needed role at the discretion of the city manager. For years, this role has been handled by the city's finance director, who has conducted reviews of various subcategories of the city's finances.
In the past, this audit has taken a magnifying glass to a particular fund, such as revenues from the city's hotel taxes or business licenses. In general, these audits would examine whether the city was collecting all the money it was legally owed. In some cases, past city finance directors who also served as city auditors have subcontracted parts of this work to outside firms.
In an email to the Voice, Takahashi said future audits would continue in the same manner. The City Council has the ability to give direction as to what particular issues he should be pursuing, he said. The city auditor position is an unpaid role.
At the May 14 meeting, council members said the city finance director was the best qualified person to serve as city auditor. Even Councilman McAlister, who said he preferred an outside firm, decided in the end to approve the appointment.
"I don't see the benefit of an outside person doing these roles," said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. "Someone internally has a better sense of our internal processes and making sure we're collecting what we're supposed to collect."
This story contains 452 words.
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