Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Times recommends: Vote no on Tampa city charter question

A proposed change to the Tampa city charter would allow the City Council — and not exclusively the mayor — to order internal audits of city agencies. While the proposal sounds good, it's a problem in the making. Tampa voters should reject it.

The internal auditor reviews how well city agencies perform. As with other departments under Tampa's strong-mayor form of government, the internal auditor acts under the mayor's authority. Tampa's charter draws a sharp line between the mayor and the legislative branch, precluding the council from interfering with executive branch departments and employees. This change would lower that wall and set a bad precedent.

More importantly, allowing the council to order audits could turn audits into political weapons if members use the opportunity to exploit a dispute with the mayor. That could paralyze the staff and divide city government. As the internal auditor conducts both performance and compliance audits, there would be no shortage of ways council members could misuse the process to score political points. This proposal came about after council members complained that Mayor Bob Buckhorn was not releasing audit reports in a timely manner.

Transparency in government is good, but there are better ways for the council to pursue concerns over waste and abuse. It could request the mayor to authorize an audit, use open-government laws to perform its own inquiry or seek an independent review. Having the power to order an audit means little if the auditor still answers to the mayor. This is window-dressing and a recipe for conflict, and the council's lack of power is not serious enough to warrant changing the city's governing document.

The referendum is open to all Tampa voters. On the Tampa city charter question on whether the City Council should be given authority to order internal audits, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting no.

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