California lawmakers moved Wednesday to give the state auditor greater powers to investigate allegations of waste and fraud in cities, counties and special districts -- advancing legislation in reaction to the financial scandal in the city of Bell.
The state Senate approved AB 187, which was introduced by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) after eight former Bell officials were indicted on criminal charges of misusing city funds.
The measure allows the state auditor's office to launch investigations of local government agencies that it deems are at "high risk of waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement."
The state auditor’s current "high risk" audit program only applies to state government agencies.
"It allows our auditor to go into areas of our government that may be at risk of turning into another city of Bell," Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) told her colleagues.
The vote was 27-8. Some opponents argued the measure is an overreaction to scandals involving local cities and that the legislation duplicates powers provided to local grand juries.
The bill was previously approved by the state Assembly, but now goes back to the lower house for approval of minor amendments before it is sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.
-- Patrick McGreevy