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Inside San Diego City Council chambers on Monday, January 5, five certified public accountants — already vetted by the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst — vied for three positions on San Diego’s Public Audit Committee.

The prize? A chance to serve alongside councilmembers Faulconer and DeMaio, perusing the city’s finances and crunching numbers during their free time, with no pay for their effort.

The five contestants were the top guns of the applicant pool, all having met the stringent requirements laid forth by the steering committee. The requirements included: knowledge of accounting, auditing, and financial reporting, with a minimum of ten years' experience as a certified public accountant or auditor.

Dressed in suits, ready to show their statistical stuff, the five accountants sat in the front row, prepared to answer questions from the council.

Councilmember Donna Frye had a question for all of the candidates: “I would like for each of you to come up and tell me, in about a minute, why exactly it is that you want to do this? Especially given the great risk.”

Candidate Wade McKnight, a former partner at Arthur Andersen (Enron fame) and current partner at JH Cohn, responded to the first part of the question: “I’ve lived in San Diego for only a year, but it came clear to me early on that the city had a lot of problems. You don’t have to live here to realize that. So when I came here, I wanted to get involved in the community in some meaningful way.”

Rancho Peñasquitos local and chair of the Rancho Peñasquitos planning board, Charles Sellers, addressed the second part of Councilmember Frye’s question: “We’re a brave group. I don’t think the risk bothers us. I know what the rules are, and I know where the rails are. We bear that risk every day. From that standpoint, we’re a pretty brave group for facing that risk every day.”

After the smoke cleared, the big winner of the afternoon was Stephen Grant, who for the next four years will execute performance audits on the city’s finances. Grant, an expert of information technology audits, was chosen in part because of his knowledge of the Enterprise Resource Planning accounting system, which the city has spent two years and over $35 million on, trying to implement with little success.

Second place, a three-year commitment to the Public Audit Committee, went to Sellers, while the two-year term was awarded to McKnight.

The Public Audit Committee meets one to two times every month. For more, visit the city’s website at sandiego.gov.

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