Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 4, 2016

You had one job, part 1

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Both the City Treasurer and City Auditor have run for re-election pretty much unopposed since the early 90s.  This year should be different given that the wonkiest elected official ever, Mike McMahon, has announced his intention to run for the City Auditor seat.  Not just that, if elected, he’s promised that one of his first actions will be to examine whether or not the role of City Auditor is actually necessary given the complexity of City finances and budgets.

It’s been a long long time since the elected Auditor has actually rolled up his/her sleeves and actual sat down to do the audit him/herself.  Side note: has there ever been an elected lady Auditor?  I’m guessing no.

It appears that the City Auditor’s job is literally to just hire the independent auditing firm which, honestly, you could just roll into the job of the City Treasurer since — as I mentioned above — the City Auditor is not really doing all the auditing alone.   Just to show how far removed the elected City Auditor is from the actual audits, the audits themselves are not even found on the City Auditor webpage.  See?

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 7.26.13 PM

I even opened that “Key Documents” tab in case you were saying “hey Lauren, maybe the audit is under Key Documents.”  They’re not.

Guess where the audits live?  Under the Finance Department’s webpage:

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 7.27.41 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 7.28.27 PM

It would have been fairly easy for the City to have indicated to the web content person to cross link the audits on the City Auditor’s page just so that there some claim to ownership and maybe they will after this post.  But the fact that it wasn’t something that was deemed a priority when the website was redesigned shows you how much ownership the elected City Auditor really has on the process of the audit.

 

 

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24 Comments »

  1. Lauren, I agree with you on many issues — but this is one that I don’t agree with. I happen to know Kevin, and while I don’t agree with Kevin on a lot of issues, I can say that Kevin Kearney is probably one of the most generous people I know. We were neighbors for several years, back when he worked for the railroad. He worked during the day and took classes at night to become a CPA. He studied tirelessly for the CPA exam and passed. My daughter was just a kid back then and she loved his wife. She would knock on their door and help her make cookies and help her garden. His wife was an avid gardner, and my love for gardening started when I met her.

    Kevin taught me a lot about the tax benefits of owning property — I was a rookie back then and knew very little about tax law. He’s also one of the best teachers I know. But the thing that had me take a second look at Kevin is what he did when he inherited his mom’s house. He could have sold it for much more, but instead he helped his friend buy it — a friend that had been struggling for years. I know his friend – what he did for his friend spoke volumes about the kind of person he is in my book.

    Yes, he’s said some things that I don’t agree with, and has taken some positions on issues that I don’t agree with, but when you get to know someone, you learn to listen, and respectfully disagree.

    My suggestion is that you talk to him and ask him what he does as City Auditor.

    Comment by Karen Bey — August 4, 2016 @ 7:10 am

  2. Both Kevins have been exemplary public servants, going well above & beyond their stated duties. They haven’t done this for money or to advance their political careers. They’ve done it simply to serve the city and especially its citizens and taxpayers.

    It should be noted that most, and maybe all, of the work they’ve done beyond their very narrow job descriptions has been at the request of city council.

    We all know the sole reason they’re being challenged now: they dared to mention the outsize, unsustainable compensation of the firefighters.

    Comment by dave — August 4, 2016 @ 7:42 am

  3. Given the amount of complaining that you’ve done about the city’s web site (and it IS poor quality, you’re not wrong about that) it’s rather disingenuous of you to point out a flaw and attribute it to the auditor’s standing rather than the ongoing quality issues.

    Comment by dave — August 4, 2016 @ 7:46 am

  4. #1, not sure that you and I read the same post. Kevin sounds like a truly kind and generous person, and assertions to the contrary are absent from the originial post. What I do read in this post is a question about whether, at this time, the auditor is required as a separate elected position. That seems like a reasonable question about how Alameda governs itself, and in no way a critique of the person currently in the office. I will be voting for McMahon because I appreciate his willingness to engage the question. To the point raised in #2, totally reasonable to appreciate the Kevins for responding to council requests in the past. And it’s also reasonable, and probably past time, to reconsider the scopes of work for treasurer and auditor.

    Comment by gaylon — August 4, 2016 @ 8:46 am

    • And it’s also reasonable, and probably past time, to reconsider the scopes of work for treasurer and auditor.

      ————————————————————–

      The ONLY reason that’s happening now is because they questioned the IAFF’s pay.

      Comment by dave — August 4, 2016 @ 8:56 am

    • Gaylon, I believe the City Auditor and Treasurer are required by the City Charter. You want to change the Charter [again?]

      I agree with Karen Bey. Kearney’s done my taxes, so I can endorse his work first hand. Probably done the taxes of a lot of people in Alameda. He’s a good CPA. That should be a requirement for the position of City Auditor.

      Is McMahon a CPA? If not, why vote for him?

      Comment by vigi — August 4, 2016 @ 9:47 am

  5. I was thinking about the term “wonk” ascribed to Mr. McMahon, and to this website (I think its in the “About” section). Google gives me two definitions for the term “wonk”: “a studious or hardworking person” and “a person who takes an excessive interest in minor details of political policy.” Both, I’m sure, apply but it is probably the second definition we are talking about. Merriam Webster says: “a person who knows a lot about the details of a particular field (such as politics) and often talks a lot about that subject”.

    I like reading Mr. McMahon’s well-informed posts on this website and believe that he knows a lot about the details of policy in Alameda, generally, though I’m not sure if he would describe himself as a “wonk”. In any event, after a typically slow churn of my brain, I started wondering whether a wonk, already neck deep in details, would need to first be elected before deciding whether the office of Auditor is actually necessary. Can’t he tell us now, before the election? What does he expect to learn once in office? To get rid of the office, wouldn’t a Charter amendment be required in any event?

    Comment by MP — August 4, 2016 @ 9:01 am

  6. I’m not sure we want to be eliminating people’s positions just because we don’t agree with their politics. While I have voted for Mike for school board, I’m voting for Kevin Kearney for City Auditor — because I think he’s the best qualified.

    Comment by Karen Bey — August 4, 2016 @ 9:21 am

    • Mike was an excellent school board member. Though I disagreed with him more than a few times, I never hesitated to vote for him. It’s disappointing that he’s not running to return to AUSD.

      Comment by dave — August 4, 2016 @ 10:02 am

  7. I, too, know the two Kevins. They have risked a great deal of wrath by justly sounding the alarm about the City of Alameda’s significant exposure to risk due to pension and benefit costs. But California’s public pension and benefits problems are also a state issue as much as they are local ones, and the solutions are to be found more in systematic statewide changes than at the local level, as rightly pointed out by numerous authorities.

    Mike McMahon’s candidacy is not, as Dave asserts, solely due to *anything* our public safety unions might be doing: Mike McMahon is not beholden to anyone and he makes up his own independent as well as analytical mind. While I have every bit of trust in City Auditor Kevin Kearney and City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy, Mike McMahon has asked a significant question that deserves attention.

    I have at least as much respect for and trust in Mike’s capabilities and sound judgment as I have in our current elected financial officials, so the question for me will be one of which policies and perspectives best serve our community, since ulterior motives are not the issue, local conspiracy theorists not withstanding.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 4, 2016 @ 11:50 am

  8. Several years ago, both Kevins worked with Alameda Citizens Task Force to lead a community-wide series of discussions at the library about the city financial position helping community members to understand the city finances and to develop suggestions toward a more balanced budget. Both Kevins spent countless hours with community members doing this exercise. The city was given a final product with those suggestions for solutions that came from citizens’ input. After that, the city started asking the community for opinions and help to prioritize expenditures.for development of the budgets via the city’s website. This does not diminish the work of Mike and the countless hours he has given to our school district with thoughtful counsel. We each have our shining skills and I think the financial well being of our city deserves financial and accounting professionals. .

    Comment by Nancy Hird — August 4, 2016 @ 12:54 pm

  9. I decide to run to bring visibility to role of the auditor based on the current charter. If elected I would attempt to have the City Council examine the necessity of the position. Based on their examination they could take any necessary action they deem appropriate from leaving the Charter alone to placing a measure on a future ballot to remove the position from the charter.

    As for what I could bring to the position while the City Council examines the necessity of the position, I have demonstrated an ability to bring together numerous pieces of information and make it available to the public. I attempted to provide not only what information paid staff presented on a topic but research on the topic for the public to examine. I always to attempted to present a fair and balanced collection of information so the public could decide for themselves whether or not the decisions being by the Board were sound.

    Since the audit is performed by accounting professionals, I see the role of the auditor being someone who can bring together the financial records of City along with the policy decisions being made by City Council to allow Alameda residents to determine whether the City is moving in the right direction. My initial research on the auditor position is here: http://www.mikemcmahon.info/auditor.htm

    Comment by Mike McMahon — August 4, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

    • Frankly Mike, I’d rather vote for you as a mayoral candidate than an auditor.

      Comment by jack — August 4, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

      • Agree. Mike would make a solid mayor.

        Comment by dave — August 4, 2016 @ 7:09 pm

  10. Where’s the anonymous comment?

    Comment by jack — August 4, 2016 @ 5:24 pm

  11. Other than #4, did anyone actually read and understand Lauren’s post?? This isn’t about whether Kearney is a nice guy or a good CPA. It’s about whether or not Alameda really needs an Auditor. Given that the Mayor is urging people to vote against revenue for the City (UMA), I would think the City could save some money by not paying for benefits for a position it does not need.

    Comment by eyeroll — August 4, 2016 @ 6:40 pm

    • “not paying for benefits it doesn’t need”???. The City Auditor does not receive the benefits of increased taxation (why do you think he is still doing other people’s taxes?). It’s an elected position, not a salaried one. It is City Staff that receive the salaries & benefits, and which stand to gain from the UMA.
      Not all sources of revenue for the City are legitimate ones. Have you ever looked at your AMP bill? There is a 3 Tier system which makes absolutely no sense to me which I have been asking the AMP staff to explain to me for years. I never get the same explanation twice. Tier 3 is the most expensive rate, but the amount of power in Tier 2 is always less than the amount charged in Tiers 1 or 3. Tier allotment appears totally arbitrary. If anything needed auditing, it’s that AMP.

      And another thing… that so-called “Alameda County Taxpayer Association” which “endorsed” UMA is a FAKE. It has ONE member and is NOT affiliated or known to any of the other California Taxpayer Associations, such as Howard Jarvis, Silicon Valley, SF, Marin, Contra Costa, et al; which are all legitimate taxpayer associations.

      Comment by vigi — August 4, 2016 @ 8:31 pm

      • From transparentcalifornia.com http://www.mikemcmahon.info/KearneyPayBenefits.pdf

        Comment by Mike McMahon — August 4, 2016 @ 8:41 pm

        • You prove my point, Mike. Not very much money will be saved by eliminating the City Auditor’s compensation, because it is NOT comparable to other cities.

          Comment by vigi — August 5, 2016 @ 9:48 am

      • The city auditor in Berkeley and Oakland are also elected but they are salaried employees making over $150,000 each. The compensation for the Alameda City Auditor is $3600.

        Comment by Mike McMahon — August 4, 2016 @ 8:57 pm

  12. Vigi, all elected officials receive medical benefits. And the UMA is a legitimate source of funding for the City, as it is for almost all cities in CA. You clearly listen to the Mayor without knowing the facts. Ask your friends outside of the City how many tiers they have, especially those with solar. Tiers are used across the board. Just because you can’t understand them does not make them wrong or illegal or bad.

    Comment by eyeroll — August 4, 2016 @ 9:16 pm

  13. Vigi Google Tiers and electrical power next time you break into a City computer. Or let me save you the trouble:

    “PG&E’s service area is divided into “Baseline territories.” Customers in each baseline territory are allocated a daily quantity of kilowatt hours (kwh) of electric power and therms of natural gas that can be billed at a lower, “baseline” rate.

    The Public Utilities (PU) Code establishes baseline quantities for average residential gas and electricity use within each baseline territory. The PU code specifically requires that baseline quantities fall between 50 and 60 percent of average use for basic-electric (no permanently installed electric heat) customers in both the summer and winter and for all-electric (with permanently installed electric heat) and gas customers in the summer. The PU code also requires that baseline quantities fall between 60 to 70 percent of average use for all-electric and gas customers in the winter.”

    From AMP website:

    “Your residential rates are determined by your primary heat source (electric or gas). Monthly usage is divided into tiers and each tier has a corresponding rate for the summer and winter seasons and is prorated based on a 30-day billing cycle.”

    So if you go beyond Alameda’s baseline quantity of kilowatt hours you get charged more. It’s very simply the amount of energy you use. It’s not rock science. If you run a lot of electrical power you pay more, if you use a normal amount of power you pay the lowest price.

    Comment by eyeroll — August 4, 2016 @ 9:43 pm


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