Detroit’s City Council has only two weeks to collect applications before it appoints a city government watchdog for the next decade.
The council authorized a job posting for a new auditor general last week, then adopted a resolution Tuesday setting a 5 p.m. deadline for Friday, Feb. 3 for candidate submissions. Each council member will select one nominee to be considered as a replacement for outgoing Auditor General Mark Lockridge, who ends his first and only term on Feb. 21. The City Charter prevents anyone who holds the office from being reappointed.
The auditor general is an independent office responsible for protecting the city against waste, fraud and abuse by conducting investigations and audits of city agencies. Responsibilities outlined in the City Charter include creating financial reports, identifying irregularities or errors in accounting methods and ensuring the city is compliant with laws. City budget documents from 2020-2021 show the auditor general has a recommended salary range between $73,005 and $162,048.
It’s a powerful position; the auditor general can subpoena witnesses, require the production of evidence in the course of investigations and inspect city facilities. The auditor general manages a staff of 14 and is also a member of the Risk Management Council, which evaluates the city’s exposure to legal liabilities.
Lockridge’s office has a long history of highlighting mismanagement and wasteful practices in Detroit city government. A 2022 audit of Detroit’s residential property tax assessments revealed the Assessor’s Office faced chronic staffing shortages, failed to maintain accurate records and left $12 million of its budget unspent over the last decade. Lockridge’s team also has scrutinized bidding practices and costs tied to the city’s federally funded demolition program.
An audit of the Public Lighting Authority, also from 2022, found improper bonuses were paid to employees and bonuses, alongside “significant deficiencies” in accounting practices and a lack of proper oversight over service contracts.
Lockridge could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Council Member Angela Whitfield-Calloway, who represents District 2, said the quick deadline doesn’t allow much time for people to apply. Whitfield-Calloway said she would have preferred a 30-day application window, given the seriousness of the decision. However, the Legislative Policy Division said a two-week application period is typical for positions appointed by the City Council.
“Two weeks for a 10-year appointment, to me, it’s not enough time,” Whitfield-Calloway said, arguing that the decision was being rushed.
Other members of the council did not express concerns about the timeline on Tuesday. Last week, Council President Pro Tem James Tate said it’s incumbent on council members to know when terms are expiring.