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(Reuters) - California's controller said on Wednesday he has received more than four dozen tips about suspect financial practices by local governments and will ask the state legislature for power to open up cities' books.

A group of California lawmakers has unveiled a package of bills to help State Controller John Chiang uncover financial abuses by local governments, seizing upon a scandal involving a city official pulling in nearly $800,000 a year in pay, and he is calling for its prompt review.

"This will allow me to go in and check to see if the books are as they state," Chiang told Reuters in a phone interview.

Chiang, who is sponsoring the bills, said the legislation would help pry open the books of local governments suspected of financial abuses or mismanagement, a concern that gained momentum in California after the pay practices of the city of Bell came to light last year.

That led to prosecutors accusing eight current and former officials in Bell, a blue-collar city of 40,000 near Los Angeles, of fleecing its taxpayers of $5.5 million by lavishing excessive compensation on themselves.

"I'm hoping Bell is an outlier but unfortunately there are instances for concern. We've received over 50 tips about cities' finances that may require further review and investigation," Chiang said.

California's state government must close a budget gap of more than $25 billion and local officials are also facing deficits -- raising the prospect of pay cuts for public employees, furloughs, layoffs and reduced public services.

Bell's former city manager had been paid $787,000 a year, nearly twice the salary of President Barack Obama, and a number of city council members were receiving nearly $100,000 a year for part-time work.

Chiang said the package of bills, if it becomes law, would help his office more easily uncover situations similar to that in Bell, which came to light through media accounts.

Chiang said his office must currently wait on annual reports of local finances to show irregularities, or for local offices to invite auditors to inspect their books.

Bell's interim city manager gave Chiang permission to delve into the city's finances, which led the controller's office to conclude in September that Bell had virtually no financial controls.

Among the bills in the legislative package is one that would allow the controller's office to audit local governments it deems to be at high risk for financial abuse, fraud and mismanagement.

3,516 Posts
Well yeah Duh

There has been plenty of money paid into the system via

All the tax revenue,Lottery, BS Permits ,Smog scams etc:

Someone's committing Embezelment and the Taxpayer is being taken for a ride,

Lets cut state employees benefits and salarys while were at it too

Hopefully this is just the tip of the " Iceberg"

I'm certain it is :nuts:

Finally some * Justice *
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