Wed., January 18, 2012 12:00am (EST)

Savannah Council Seeks Own Auditor
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 3 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Savannah City Council recently hired Rochelle Small-Toney as the city's chief administrator.  But they are acting to remove one of her powers.  The council member say, it's not about Small-Toney.  (photo City of Savannah)
Savannah City Council recently hired Rochelle Small-Toney as the city's chief administrator. But they are acting to remove one of her powers. The council member say, it's not about Small-Toney. (photo City of Savannah)
Members of Savannah's city council want to take financial auditing out of their city manager's authority.

While the idea isn't unusual, it is the result of a tumultuous period in city politics.

City council members say, they were surprised by cost-overruns and expensive consultants under a previous city manager, Michael Brown.

The missteps led to a public backlash.

Now, the recently sworn-in city council wants a financial overseer reporting directly to them.

Council member Van Johnson says, the proposal is not about the current city manager, Rochelle Small-Toney.

"I did not like the many things that were 'surprises' to many members of council," Johnson says. "I understood that our staff was just overwhelmed with the many things they have to deal with. But if someone is in play all the time to provide these things, it makes us more informed."

The move could require voter approval because the city's charter allows the council to hire and fire only three people: the city manager, the city clerk and the city attorney.

"We're talking about transparency," Johnson says. "We're talking about making sure the public knows and making sure we are effective and efficient in our services. It would help to have someone constantly reviewing these things outside of the perview of the city manager."

An official at the Georgia Government Financial Officers Association says, elected officials commonly hire auditors.

But whether they report to elected or unelected officials, however, is up to the personal relationships involved.

In Savannah's case, several years of tumultuous politics strained relationships at City Hall.