The Tampa City Council’s collective disappointment with not receiving timely internal audits from city department heads led to a rebuke of Mayor Bob Buckhorn Tuesday night, when city residents approved a change in the city’s charter big time, by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin.
“I’m happy that the voters of this city decided to put some trust in the City Council and I’m glad that they would give us authority to request these audits,” said Councilman Frank Reddick.
Referring to the fact that it will take a supermajority, or five of the seven council members to make such a request, Reddick says city residents shouldn’t fear the council will begin indiscriminately requesting such audits. “We might not ever request an audit,” he stresses. “It’s just that we want to be in a position to say that if there’s a need to request one that the administration might refuse to do it, then we’ve got the power and the authority to do it if we got five votes.”
“We were getting audits that were six months, a year old, and then when you turn to the front page, they put in the date of when it was being presented, but when you looked at audit itself and looked at the dates of when the questions were asked, the thing was six months to a year old,” lamented Councilwoman Yolie Capin. “We made a point that we needed the audits on a timely basis.”
Buckhorn responded when the issue rose to the fore earlier this year that he liked to keep those open audits on his desk, since it would remind him to follow up on the recommendations made about a particular department. Capin said she suggested to the mayor that he write up a list to keep track of the audit and then turn it over. “That’s what really got it started. It was not being done on a timely basis.”
The mayor did not want the measure to pass. In his weekly email sent out to subscribers on Monday, he included a link to a Tampa Bay Times editorial inveighing against the proposal. And he told reporters on Election Day he considered it “meddling” by the council, and “totally unnecessary.”
“You wonder why they even passed it. Is it political payback?” he wondered aloud. “Are they going after department heads? I just don’t think it’s necessary and I think our charter has stood the test of time for 40 years.”
Reddick said he made the proposal more than a year ago that when the mayor receives an audit, the council should concurrently, “instead of receiving the audit after the mayor signed off that it might take a year to do it.”
“He ignored our requests, and I think that’s what led to the frustration of members of the council saying, ‘All right. We’re going to request audits,'” Reddick said.
Capin said the process worked differently under the Pam Iorio administration, and complains she hasn’t even met the current internal auditor in the city.