California stimulus spending gets own watchdog
April 5, 2009
SACRAMENTO ” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has hired Los Angeles city controller Laura Chick to act as an independent auditor overseeing California’s $50 billion share of federal stimulus funding.
Schwarzenegger was to name Chick to the newly created job of inspector general on Friday and had scheduled a news conference in Los Angeles.
Chick will monitor all the funding coming to California through state agencies, local governments and nonprofit groups, said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor. That amount is expected to be about $50 billion when money from competitive grants is included.
Including tax cuts and credits, California is expected to see about $85 billion in direct and indirect aid from the stimulus package.
“I am proud to announce this first-in-the-nation position that will make sure the funds we receive from the Recovery Act are used with accountability and transparency to stimulate our economy and create jobs,” Schwarzenegger said in prepared remarks.
The governor already named a task force of top advisers to monitor the state portion of the $787 billion stimulus package. Chick’s job will be to watch for waste or abuse.
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The 64-year-old Democrat was co-chairwoman of Women for Obama in California during the 2008 presidential campaign.
In Los Angeles, she has earned a reputation as an aggressive investigator of misspending in the nation’s second-largest city since she was elected controller in 2001.
She reported that Los Angeles police have a backlog of more than 7,000 untested samples from rape victims and that the city loses millions of dollars each year by mishandling state and federal grants.
Her office also has found discrimination and harassment in the city’s fire department and revealed the city spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on bottled water as officials waged a $1 million campaign to promote the quality of the municipal tap supply.
She also launched a 24-hour hotline for city employees and residents to report fraud while remaining anonymous.
Chick will be paid $175,000 a year and will report to the governor. She will work out of Sacramento and will have a staff, but the size and details were still being worked out, McLear said.
Also uncertain is where the money will come from to pay for the office.
Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders recently passed a plan to balance the budget through the current fiscal year and the next one by cutting $15 billion from state programs and raising taxes by billions more.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, previously appointed Chick to the Board of Governors for the California State Bar.