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Time to cut ties with firm

December 04, 2010

In the ever-progressing fallout over the employee compensation and financial mismanagement scandal in the city of Bell, it appears the degree of separation for Burbank is a little too close for comfort.

Mayer Hoffman McCann — the firm that audited and signed off on Bell's finances — is now being investigated by the state controller's office because, clearly, some things were missed. This is significant because the same firm has been auditing Burbank's finances since 2006.

Apparently, the new leadership in the Burbank finance office has complete confidence in the record-keeping of city officials, but because the city has to have its records signed off on by an outside firm, it won't mean much should Mayer Hoffman McCann be found to have violated state rules.

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If so, city officials will have to spend a pretty penny re-auditing their records if they don't want Burbank's credit ranking to fall. That would make things like issuing bonds or borrowing money more expensive.

Mayer Hoffman McCann reps have told the media they stand behind their work, regardless of what happened in Bell and the "rush to judgment" there. But given the scope of alleged misconduct, and bona fide mishandling of city finances, it's hard not to get caught up in the rush — and what it means for this city.

If city officials have known since July — when the Bell scandal broke — of the shared auditing firm, why has there been no public consideration about changing firms, especially with a year left on the contract?

Even if the state controller's office absolves Mayer Hoffman McCann of any technical violations, that Burbank is using a firm involved in any sort of financial auditing of a city like Bell should be cause enough to cut ties, if for no other reason than taxpayer piece of mind.

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