San Diego City Auditor John Torell has yet to decide whether he will audit bills submitted by the big-name and high-priced (up to $900 an hour) outside consultants who comprise the City Council's audit committee.
To date, the audit committee-staffed by the international consulting firm Kroll Inc. and charged with reconciling conflicting investigations of the city's pension mess-has racked up more than $171,000 in "out-of-pocket disbursements" over a five-month period, prompting City Attorney Mike Aguirre to blame City Manager Lamont Ewell for mismanaging their contract and call for an audit.
In a recent editorial, CityBeat also called for an audit of Kroll's expenses.
What exactly are out-of-pocket disbursements? According to invoices submitted by Kroll, they include meals, ground transportation, airfare, hotels, telephone fees, postage and other office expenses.
What those vague invoices don't explain is that some audit committee members have been living high on the hog-reportedly traveling San Diego's pockmarked streets in stretch limousines and staying at posh downtown hotels-all at taxpayer expense.
Larry Tomanek, the city's assistant auditor and comptroller, said members of Torell's staff are currently gathering information related to Kroll's contract with the city but said he wouldn't characterize that research as an audit.
"Right now it is a preliminary analysis, a preliminary review to determine if more work is warranted, and, if so, how much more work is warranted and what direction to go in," he said.
Kroll's out-of pocket disbursements came to light after CityBeat showed Aguirre copies of the Kroll invoices, which were obtained from the city manager's office using a public-records-act request. Aguirre then raised the issue at an August City Council meeting, during which he chastised former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt and his underlings for taking advantage of a city that's already in financial ruin.
When Aguirre raised the specter of limo rides, the consultants from Kroll bristled with indignation, but, as of press time Tuesday, Troy Dahlberg, the Kroll consultant whose name appears on the invoices, had yet to respond to CityBeat's request for comment.
Richard Rider, a taxpayer advocate who ran unsuccessfully in the recent mayoral primary election, said he's reviewed some of the expenses but wasn't aware that audit committee members were riding in limousines."There's a sense that the city doesn't watch costs very well," he said. "I think the audit idea is a good idea."