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Modesto council starts auditor hiring process

Modesto is on the hunt for its next City Hall watchdog.

The City Council meets tonight in closed session to discuss appointing a new auditor to keep tabs on how taxpayer money is spent at Tenth Street Place.

The council needs to replace auditor Frank DeMattos, whose contract was terminated in March after 18 months on the job. Council members said DeMattos didn't uncover enough inefficiency at City Hall.

"We just didn't get what we wanted," Councilman Dave Lopez said. "We want someone who will find redundancies in jobs and find any taxpayer money that's being wasted out there."

The auditor position was created when voters passed Measure M, a package of government reforms, in February 2008. The auditor answers directly to the council instead of another city employee, such as the city clerk or city manager.

In DeMattos' first year, he focused on hiring new financial auditors and getting his office up and running. He released an audit of the city's payroll practices, calling them "generally adequate."

Council members said in November that DeMattos wasn't meeting their expectations. They wanted audits that examine how city departments function and whether taxpayer money is used wisely, council members said.

DeMattos earned $96,200 a year. He received three months' pay as part of his severance package.

The city could save money by contracting for the position, Councilman Joe Muratore said. An outside consultant working under contract also could deliver more bang for the city's buck, Muratore said.

"I'd rather see a scope of work laid out in advance where we can hold a person accountable and say, was that scope of work accomplished or not?" Muratore said.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378. Follow her at http://twitter.com/BeeReporter.

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