LB City Auditor Laura Doud looks back on first year

laura-doud.jpgBy Joseph Serna, Staff Writer

Laura Doud’s office has an amazing view.
Walking past people behind windows or sitting in their cubicles, you finally approach the double doors into her office.
Any visitor’s eyes will immediately dart left, to the eighth floor panoramic view of downtown Long Beach, to the public below and the ocean beyond. For anyone else, the view is simply picturesque, but for Doud, it serves a different purpose.
“It keeps me focused on the people I serve,” she said.
Doud reports directly to the public that elected her. The auditor’s office is independent of the city’s political hierarchy and is meant to protect the public’s assets and trust and ensure city resources are used to provide optimum benefits for Long Beach residents.
A year into her four-year term, Doud has shown her constituents results.
Doud reorganized the office she won in the April 2006 election after a scathing third-party audit outlined a number of shortcomings her predecessor left behind.
“I was sort of disappointed in the leadership,” she said in an April 2007 interview.
Among the changes to what the report regards as “a lack of quality control,” Doud has reintroduced peer-reviews of her office every three years, something that was inexplicably absent during the former auditor’s tenure.
With changes to record keeping and more adherence to office policies, Doud and her staff began to play catch-up with city auditor work.
In her first year, Doud’s office successfully navigated their way through the bankruptcy mess of the “Queen Mary situation” as she calls it, and completed an audit of the Police Department.
The Police Department takes up roughly 50 percent of Long Beach’s general fund, with about $12 million of that going toward overtime. Suggestions from the third-party company her office hired aims to reduce that amount.
Reports for the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Public Works department are due in the coming months.
Outside of a rebuttal from the former city auditor, Doud’s audits have received nothing but open ears and a willingness to communicate.
“I’m not the ‘gotcha’ type of style,” Doud said. “Our office is more collaborative.”
That collaboration extends to the public, with communication and transparency being one of her office’s top priorities.
Doud has presented findings for her office and the police station publicly at City Council meetings, and revamped the auditor’s website to make them available online. There is also an anonymous hotline to report fraud.
For Doud, the greatest highlight of the first year in office was the successful passage of Proposition H in May, an oil-production tax increase that generates $4 million for the city’s police and fire departments.
“A huge victory,” she called it, as it garnered 70 percent of the voters’ support.
Whether its penny-pinching the “petty cash” in her own department, suggesting reorganizing staff in the police department to put more officers on the streets or auditing expenditures in city wire-transfers, for Doud, it’s why she does what she does.
“Every dollar to me counts,” she said. “Our goal is really to improve things and make them better.
“Professionally, this has been one of the most fulfilling years of my life.”

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