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What Does the City Controller Control?

March 3, 2009

With all this talk of the race for city controller, I figured that this would probably be a good time to do some research into what the controller actually does. The title “controller” is somewhat ominous, but the reality of the position is a bit more mundane. From the controller’s charter:

The Controller shall be the auditor and general accountant of the City and shall exercise a general supervision over the accounts of all offices, departments, boards and employees of the City charged in any manner with the receipt, collection or disbursement of the money of the City.

So “controller” is basically a fancy way of saying accountant? Well, maybe. But the LA Times endorsement for Wendy Greuel makes the position seem considerably more badass:

The difficult job requires someone with sufficient knowledge of City Hall to be able to ferret out poor management of programs; enough backbone to stand up to the City Council, the mayor, the City Hall bureaucracy and other powers vested in the status quo; and the judgment to distinguish between systemic problems and the quotidian foul-up.

Someone with enough backbone to stand up to the city council… a maverick, perhaps? No, despite the necessity for political savvy, the controller needs to possess actual technical abilities, unlike the last maverick to run for office. It looks like the winner of this year’s race for controller will probably be either Nick Patsaouras or Wendy Greuel, although #3 candidate Kathleen “Suzy” Evans has assembled a spirited campaign blog. All of the candidates seem qualified, and while the Times seems to feel Greuel’s practical nature makes her the best for the job, I think any of the candidates (even Suzy) would do well in the position. In other words, I won’t be staying up for the election results.

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