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Costa Mesa may ax auditors who missed Bell irregularities

June 7, 2012 | 12:24 pm

Bell's former top administrators, Angela Spaccia and Robert Rizzo in court, facing charges of misappropriation of public funds.

Costa Mesa may dump its auditors after the firm was punished by the state for failing to detect any financial irregularities in the city of Bell, despite money problems that pushed the Los Angeles County city to the brink of insolvency and led to a public corruption scandal.

Costa Mesa Councilman Steve Mensinger this week urged the city to drop Mayer Hoffman McCann, which was fined $300,000 and placed on two years' probation by the state.

The settlement follows a highly critical report from the state controller that called Mayer Hoffman McCann's audits in Bell little more than a "rubber-stamp."

"I just don't feel very comfortable as a council member with Mayer Hoffman as the auditor of our city," Mensinger said. He requested that the city’s chief administrator, Tom Hatch, look into an alternate firm. Last year, Newport Beach severed its relationship with the auditing firm after the problems in Bell were made public.

Among the problems the controller found in Bell was that the city had overcharged residents and businesses more than $6 million in taxes and fees and that city officials had placed $23.5 million in bond funds in a non-interest-bearing checking account.

Experts said those were among the problems auditors could have caught.

Eight former Bell city leaders are now facing criminal public corruption charges.


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Photo: Bell's former top administrators, Angela Spaccia and Robert Rizzo in court, facing charges of misappropriation of public funds. Credit:  Ifan Khan / Los Angeles Times