Palo Alto welcomes new city auditor

City Council approves contract for Harriet Richardson

Palo Alto's new city auditor made her local debut on Monday when the City Council unanimously approved her contract and welcomed her to City Hall.

Harriet Richardson, most recently a deputy city auditor for the City of Berkeley, will officially take the helm of Palo Alto's auditor's office on April 15. She will receive a salary of $167,500.

Her position is one of four -- along with city manager, city attorney and city clerk -- that is appointed directly by the City Council. A committee of council members interviewed candidates in recent months and selected Richardson after a "competitive national recruitment process," according to a statement from the city.

Councilman Greg Scharff, who chairs the Council Appointed Officers Committee, welcomed her to the new position and told her the council is "thrilled to have you."

Richardson has been a government auditor for more than 25 years, which includes 11 years of executive-level audit-management experience, according to the city's announcement. She has experience in managing and conducting performance audits, program evaluations and management and policy analysis. She has also received four Knighton Awards for Best Audit from the Association of Local Government Auditors and was recently invited to speak at The Institute of Internal Auditors' 2013 All-Star conference.

On Monday, Richardson thanked the council for offering her the position and noted that the local City Auditor's Office is one that is well known around the country as a small but mighty force.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity and very happy to have been the one selected for it," Richardson said Monday.

Richardson will be filling a position that has been vacant since Jim Pelletier resigned as city auditor last September. Senior Auditor Houman Boussina has been leading the department on an acting basis since then.

During Boussina's brief tenure, the office won an award for an audit of the city's inventory-management practices. The report uncovered numerous flaws in the city's practices -- including inaccurate records, lax security and insufficient accountability for transactions -- and recommended numerous actions for improvement. The city learned recently that the audit has won the 2013 Silver Knighton Award from the Association of Local Government Auditors

After welcoming Richardson, Mayor Nancy Shepherd thanked Boussina on Monday for his work during the transition period and lauded his office for the award.

City Manager James Keene, another council-appointed officer who came to Palo Alto from Berkeley, offered Richardson a few words of advice.

"Harriet, don't think that Berkeley really prepared you for Palo Alto," Keene said.


Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Yeah, we'll see about this!

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2014 at 1:14 pm

While it will take Ms. Richardson a few months to get her feet on the ground, she would be well advised to get out of her office, walk around the city, talk to the residents and business owners, and then observe the government operations first hand.

The last auditor--also approved by the city council--was a real disappointment. Since all city councils do when presented with a candidate for these positions is rubber stamp what the city manager proposes--their comments are pretty meaningless.

The auditor could be one of the most important officials, if they would get their hands dirty and their feet wet. But staying in their offices, and generating meaningless reports isn't helping the taxpayers--who really need better insight into what is happening at city hall.

Like this comment
Posted by OY!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Another one of Keene's unemployed friends gets a six figure income courtesy of Palo Alto taxpayers. The Council and Keene seem to be looking for the perfect "yes" man to write reports on what a great job they are doing. Unfortunately, the past auditors hired were professionals and had integrity which seems to have been an impediment in their employment according to Council and Keene I am sure the new auditor will fit in well with Keene's shadow organization of overpaid managers who simply nod their head in agreement and offer no solutions or criticism. What a pity!

Like this comment
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 8, 2014 at 4:33 pm

FYI, the city manager does not make recommendations for hiring the city auditor. The city council hires a search firm, narrows the candidate pool, does the interviews and makes the selection.
The new city auditor was not unemployed at the time of her hire here and her employment didn't cross paths with Jim Keene in Berkeley.
We all have a right to our own opinion, but not our own facts.

Like this comment
Posted by Failed economist with lazy DIL
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Oy! -- why don't you provide the proof for,your claims, now that pat Burt has called you on them.

Like this comment
Posted by Failed economist with lazy DIL
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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