Long Beach City Auditor talks Measure AAA, which adjusts to city charter’s description of her job

When residents cast their votes in November, they’ll be weighing in on several proposed amendments to the city charter, and some might seem a bit more confusing than others.

Measure AAA, for example, focuses on the authority of long-time City Auditor Laura Doud, who runs independent audits and reviews of city operations.

A vote for Measure AAA would authorize Doud to “conduct performance audits of city departments, boards, commissions and offices.”

But doesn’t she already do that?

Yes, says Doud. But the language in the city charter is vague and should be updated.

“I know that people’s eyes tend to glaze over when they even see the word ‘audit’,” she says. “But this is really quite simple.”

We sat down with Doud to learn more about the measure and why she feels it’s good government.

LB Post: Why do you want to update the city charter?

Doud: We’re dealing with a city charter that’s over 100 years old, so it’s very much outdated. We’re held to certain standards and those standards have increased over the years. We want to keep current with the generally accepted government auditing standards so we can have clear language for the next generations.

LB Post: What would Measure AAA change?

Doud: Measure AAA changes two things. The first is that the charter explicitly states that we have the authority to do financial audits, but the profession has evolved into performance audits.

Our office gets into the nitty gritty of the departments and agencies to look at how government can be better and more efficient. We’re already doing these performance audits, but what’s happened over the past few years is that there’s a disconnect between what the charter says and what we’re actually doing today.

This would simply add language giving us the explicit authority to do performance audits. There’s been some questions and challenges as to whether we have the authority to do certain audits. So when people start to question whether or not we have the authority, this makes it clear.

LB Post: And the second change?

Doud: The other piece is unlimited, unrestricted access to all documents. Right now in the city charter, it only allows us access to financial documents. The change would explicitly state that we have access to all documents.

LB Post: Opponents of Measure AAA say the change in wording from “immediate” to “timely” access to all documents would give departments leeway to delay information.

Doud: I hope voters aren’t distracted by that argument because we understand that our request for documents takes time and effort for departments that are drowning in budget cuts, and even though we’ve had immediate access before, I have always given every department reasonable time.

“Timely” gives them the impression that they don’t have to drop everything, and the wording is in line with eight other cities where we did a benchmark study. I’m a reasonable auditor and I believe in establishing trust and working with the departments. But if there are issues, I’m not gonna let anyone roll over. I would have no problem going directly to the city manager or the media.

LB Post: What do you want voters to know about Measure AAA? 

Doud: For me, this is all about good government. It’s about what I stand for, what I went to school for, the oath of office. The public has placed an enormous amount of trust in me. They’re depending on me and this office to increase the accountability and transparency of government, and that’s something I take seriously.

Note: The Long Beach Post also reached out to the Association of Local Government Auditors for its take on Measure AAA.

In an email, ALGA president Kristine Adams-Wannberg said the changes would update and clarify language in the city charter and are consistent with the organization’s guidelines.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].