The potential cost for independent audit into Fresno councilmembers spending

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Last week, Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld called into question the spending of fellow councilmembers Arias, Esparza, Maxwell and Soria.

On Wednesday, the City of Fresno's finance and audit committee met to discuss Thursday's council agenda item calling for an independent audit. That committee includes three of the accused councilmembers -- Arias, Esparza and Maxwell.

They say they will take the audit seriously.

Council President Esparza says, "I wanted to be able to have a conversation that was level-headed, intelligent and really discuss the science statistics and numbers behind audits and how they're conducted as opposed to a politically charged conversation that may take place by the full council."

For three years, Esparza has chaired the city's finance committee. He says Wednesday's meeting was only informational.

RELATED: Fresno councilmember accusing 4 other councilmembers of misusing budget

He says, "I think it's important that we take the time and resources to conduct this external review to restore public confidence in the city finances."

But that commitment to transparency comes at a cost.

Director of finance and City Controller Mike Lima says the price will likely be in the six-figure range.

How high that number gets depends on the scope.

Lima says, "The more years you do, the more it's going to cost. The more people you look at, the more the cost. You do more years, more people, the more it's going to cost."

City Manager Georgeanne White says the audit will be conducted in phases -- and is an opportunity to look at policies in place and potentially adopt best practices used by other cities or businesses.

She says, "The policies we have right now are traditional. If the city were operating as a business, and this is what we need to be spending money on to be operating as a business."

The initial discussion suggests city credit cards and reimbursements over the last 5-10 years will be audited.

"I haven't looked at the expenditures that are in question, but some of the comments that have been made in some of those expenditures violated those administrative orders," said the city manager.

Currently, 79 city credit cards are in use, and hundreds of people receive reimbursements for expenses.

Roughly 12 to 14 of those cards are held by city council members of their staff.

White says, "At least with the council subcommittee, I think we're on the same page of what the scope should include."

Mayor Dyer says he wants to see the audit process begin in three weeks.

Whether that happens, is dependent on the scope of the audit. Should the cost exceed $50,000, it will have to go before council.
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.