A year after Modesto hired its first independent auditor, city leaders say they want the city's top watchdog to shine a brighter light on inefficiencies at City Hall.
The City Council appointed auditor Frank DeMattos in September 2008. Instead of working in the city clerk's office as past auditors did, De-Mattos reports to and works for the council.
His position was created after voters passed Measure M, a package of government reforms, in February 2008.
With an independent auditor at the council's beck and call, council members hoped they would have a tool to weed out inefficiencies. Some say they haven't seen enough of that.
"He's been looking into all kinds of things, but it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty," Mayor Jim Ridenour said. "We're expecting a lot more than what we've seen."
The city's last auditor, who reported to the city clerk, retired in 2006. His investigations revealed serious errors at the Public Works Department, including the construction of a maintenance building without the council's consent.
It was expected that DeMattos would take a hard look at the utility rates that the city charges residents. They've been questioned since 2004 because the city and a contractor used flawed data to calculate the rates.
That hasn't happened. In August, DeMattos released a draft audit of the city's payroll practices. His investigation found that payroll practices were "generally adequate." He made four recommendations about how to improve payroll accuracy.
Among them was the suggestion that the city wait longer to pay employees after pay periods end. Now, employees are paid two days after a pay period ends. DeMattos' audit says that quick turnaround time leads to inaccuracies that have to be fixed later.
The council recently completed closed-door performance evaluations for DeMattos and the city's other charter officers -- City Manager Greg Nyhoff, City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood and City Clerk Stephanie Lopez. The ballot measure that created the auditor position requires council members to conduct annual job reviews of those employees.
Council members said they couldn't comment on the specifics of DeMattos' review. Ridenour said the council gave DeMattos verbal and written direction on what they'd like to see him focus on.
Council members said they want to see audits that examine how city departments function and whether taxpayer money is used wisely.
"We had in mind someone who would go down and check on why only five water meters are installed a day instead of 10 water meters, and look at (whether there are) efficiencies that could save taxpayer dollars," Councilwoman Janice Keating said.
Council members Brad Hawn and Garrad Marsh shared similar concerns.
Taking feedback seriously
DeMattos said he didn't get as much done as he hoped this year, in part because he was learning the ropes in a new City Hall. DeMattos previously worked as Stockton's senior deputy city auditor. He earns $96,200.
DeMattos said he was also kept busy helping the city recruit a financial auditor, but he said he saved the city money in the process.
DeMattos said he's taking the council's feedback seriously. He said council members and the public will get a better idea of what he's been up to early next year when he releases a detailed quarterly report of his activities.
"Now that I'm settled in and know the system better, I'll be able to start making more findings and recommendations," DeMattos said.
"I think once the quarterly report comes out, there will be some things that come out that will be of help to the city."
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378. Follow her at Twitter.com/BeeReporter.