Everyone seems to finally agree that a full audit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is needed to answer questions regarding the agency's secretive and lavish spending policies. Sheriff Sherman Block finally broke his silence and agreed last week that such an audit was necessary, not that he had a real choice. The Board of Supervisors should now move smartly forward on getting this audit up and running soon. Note that a certain resonance is to be found in the thoughts of supervisors such as Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who once indicated that she was loathe to single Block out by calling for an audit of his department alone.
It's been clear for some time now that the board is playing with a short deck of budget cards regarding most if not all of the county's numerous departments. Regular audits of all county department budgets, beginning with the major ones and working down, are clearly in order. So too are more descriptive and easily decipherable departmental budgets.
While it isn't likely that voters will ever storm the Hall of Administration to demand copies of county department budgets, it would be a mistake to assume that the public isn't interested in what their local government spends. Just take a look at the recent election, in which the supposedly crime-phobic public turned down a statewide proposition that would have paid for repairing and improving jail security and building new jail space. Moreover, consider the passage of Proposition 218, which will make it much harder for local governments to raise funds for parks, library services, fire suppression zones and some police services. It will be up to local governments to prove that they are using their budgets and general funds as efficiently as possible. That will be much harder if those governments have too little information on how their departments spend money.