Austin City Council
10:31 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Strains Show Between Council, City Manager Over Auditors' Office

This is an excerpt from an article written by our Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily). For more on this topic, see our collaborative report with the Monitor.

Tensions continued to mount Tuesday between City Manager Marc Ott and a number of Austin City Council members. At immediate issue is where to relocate the office of City Auditor Ken Mory as City Hall is reconfigured to make room for additional Council members under single member districts.

During Tuesday’s work session, there was a particularly testy exchange between Ott and Council Member Bill Spelman as Spelman told Ott he should have at least consulted Council members before making a final decision about Mory’s relocation.

Mory’s offices are currently right across the hall from the six Council offices on the east side of City Hall’s second floor. Ott has made it clear that he plans to move the audit group across the street to make way for new Council offices.

Two relocation possibilities for the Auditors’ office have been discussed publicly. The first would move Mory and company down the hall to where the office of Economic Development currently sits. The other would move the auditors across the street to space newly leased in the Silicon Labs building.

At the work session, Council Members Laura Morrison, Kathie Tovo, Sheryl Cole and Spelman – all members of the Audit and Finance Committee – continued to press the point. They were joined by Council Member Chris Riley.

Riley asked Ott to answer a question about whether he felt that management and the Auditor’s office had cooperated effectively over the issue. That ended with Ott expressing concern that Riley was trying to put words in his mouth.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lee Leffingwell continued to support Ott’s authority to locate the office wherever he chose. Tovo fired back that the decision was ultimately up to Council, because it could chose whether or not to fund the move.

Things became more testy as Spelman and Ott went back and forth over who objected to what when. Spelman said that Ott should have at least consulted Council members before making a decision about another of Council’s direct reports.

“It seems to me there is a really important constituency that was not consulted at all and that’s the City Council,” Spelman said. “The City Auditor reports to us, not to you. He’s not your staff, he’s our staff, and it seems to me that it would have been at least polite for you to have engaged us in that conversation before deciding where our direct report was going to go.

“Why didn’t you do that?”

Ott responded that he “did have conversations with a number of Council members” over the issue. Ott further noted that he’d heard that conversations had extended beyond Council offices to the City Auditor.

To read the rest of this story, go to the Austin Monitor (subscription required).