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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP / East County | Thousand Oaks

Council Tables Issue of Campaign Audits

October 12, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND

City leaders have decided to hold off on employing an independent auditor to review campaign finance statements, saying a cursory look wouldn't do much good and an in-depth study would be too costly and time-consuming.

Councilwoman Linda Parks, who had urged hiring an auditor after the 1998 election, said Tuesday that she would abstain from a vote because she is a candidate. The council then voted 5 to 0 to table the issue.

The city has been grappling with how to enforce its strict campaign finance law, which limits individual contributions to $250. Two weeks ago, the council hired a special attorney to investigate complaints filed by citizens and prosecute any violations.

But not everyone agrees that hiring the attorney--a move proposed by Councilman Mike Markey, who is also seeking reelection in November--is the best way to ensure that candidates are complying with the law. Rather than respond to complaints, an auditor would examine each statement filed, a process that could cost up to $100,000, said City Atty. Mark Sellers.

Jim Bruno, a planning commissioner and council candidate, said he has called for an independent auditor all along and believes it is a more objective way to enforce the city ordinance than the outside counsel.

"One is accusatory and looking for wrongdoing, while the other is subjecting everyone to the same level of scrutiny," Bruno said.

The debate comes amid a hotly contested race in which money spent by some candidates has become an issue. Seven candidates are vying for two council seats, and challenger Ed Masry, an attorney, has already spent more than $60,000 of his own money.

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