Chico council accepts audit, new reporting policy

CHICO, Calif. - The City of Chico's finances were laid out in front of them by an independent auditor Tuesday night and city officials are confident a new fraud, waste and abuse reporting system will keep future mistakes at a minimum.

The Chico City Council heard and accepted a final report from an independent auditor at their monthly meeting Tuesday night.

They and the public heard details about errors in financial reporting and spending practices that burned through millions of dollars in a relatively short period of time, plunging the city budget into a serious deficit that forced layoffs and cuts to city services.

Members of the public addressed the council, demanding persons responsible be punished. But when all was said and done Mayor Scott Gruendl said the city needed to move forward and that now it's his and the council's responsibility to clean up the mess.

"I think resigning is too simple of a way out, that I have to take responsibility by participating in fixing and making sure this situation never happens again," Gruendl said.

After the council unanimously accepted the independent audit they heard and passed a proposal to establish a fraud, waste and abuse reporting policy.

A hotline will be put in place where city employees and the public can report concerns.

"Now we need to put the systems in place that allows the public, our contractors, our employees and anybody else to be able to speak up when they see something that's not fair or something that might be wrong. This does that," said Chico Administrative Services Director Chris Constantin.

Constantin will now add duties of city auditor to his job while he oversees the reports as they come in. The added work will cost the city no money.

The city will now move forward and try to repair wrongs of the past and get the city out of financial hardship while protecting potential future mistakes.

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