Measure to Maintain Independence, Oversight, and Transparency of Public Funds Approved

SACRAMENTO – The Assembly Local Government Committee unanimously approved Assembly Bill 2558 by Assemblyman Bill Brough (R-Dana Point). AB 2558 would extend protections to voters and citizens by ensuring any attempt to consolidate the elected roles of the treasurer-tax collector and the auditor-controller, the fiduciary and financial watchdogs of public funds, to an appointed position be first approved by voters.

Assemblyman Brough is pleased to introduce the legislation with the support of the California Association of County Treasurers-Tax Collectors and the Orange County Auditor-Controller. Over the last 30 years, 7 consolidations occurred. In all but one of the cases, voters were not given the choice as to whether the consolidated office should be elected or appointed. These independently elected officers provide a critical protection for public funds by providing important independent checks and balances over public money.

“The elected treasurer-tax collector is a public servant and has specific responsibilities as a fiduciary to protect public funds” stated Shari Freidenrich, Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector. “State law requires another elected official, the auditor-controller to perform independent oversight of these funds by performing reviews and audits of the funds held by the treasurer-tax collector, and include some requirements implemented after the bankruptcy in Orange County in 1994. Any decision to change these important oversight and segregation of duties roles between the two independently elected offices that would consolidate these offices into a single elected position could affect public funds due to the loss of independent oversight. This bill provides that any decision to consider this change would be transparent and only done if approved by the owners of the public funds, the citizens of the county.”

Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery added, “The County’s financial watchdogs should be independent of other County officials and accountable only to the people. If the financial watchdogs are instead going to be hired and fired by politicians, then the voters should be the ones making the decision to give up their own right to elect independent watchdogs and placing them under the authority of politicians instead. I thank Assemblyman Brough for his efforts in protecting the will of the voters.”

“Fiscal responsibility, oversight, and transparency are core roles of government. This is called into question when counties propose changing elected offices charged with auditing programs and collecting and dispersing public dollars to appointed or a consolidated position. This bill gives voters a critical protection and preserves their ability to choose the level of oversight they feel is most appropriate,” concluded Assemblyman Brough.

AB 2558 will next be heard on the Assembly Floor.