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State Senate backs more powers for controller to ferret out Bell-style excesses

June 1, 2011 |  2:11 pm

The state controller would be given more power to delve into the financial records of cities under legislation approved Wednesday by the state Senate in response to the fiscal scandal in the city of Bell.

Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) introduced the measure at the request of Controller John Chiang, who complained after the Bell financial scandal that he is severely hampered in his ability to examine the fiscal conditions of cities and special districts.

Chiang is limited to sending auditors into local agencies when the annual financial reports they are required to file with his office show evidence that state or federal money has been misspent.

The legislation by Pavley would give the controller broad power to examine the financial records of cities, counties, special districts and redevelopment agencies, even if their annual reports are clean.

The new powers would help the state better identify problems such as those in Bell, where eight current and former city officials have been charged with misusing public funds, supporters of the bill said.

"Most of these cities are floundering, and some thoughtful fiscal oversight could be in everyone's best interest," Pavley said before the Senate passed SB 449 and sent it to the Assembly for consideration.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento