Fountain Valley retains longtime auditor

The firm that audited books for the city of Bell before its 2010 corruption scandal has signed a contract to audit Fountain Valley for another year.

The City Council voted unanimously March 20 to continue with Mayer Hoffman McCann, which was in the midst of a five-year contract with Fountain Valley when the Bell allegations surfaced.

Sherri Holman, the city's finance director, said officials opted for a one-year contract in part due to public unease over the connection to Bell, a small working-class city in Los Angeles County.

"We just thought it was prudent to do it for a year, review the year and then come back to council again," Holman said.

She added, though, that Fountain Valley had good experiences with Mayer Hoffman in the past, and that no one who worked with Bell was on the team assigned to her city.

The firm did not return messages seeking comment.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2010 that Bell officials had given themselves exorbitant salaries, doled out allegedly illegal loans and demanded that some merchants pay special fees to stay in business, among other things. Six former council members, along with former City Manager Robert Rizzo and his top aide, Angela Spaccia, now face charges.

A December 2010 report by the state controller's office chided the firm for applying a "rubber-stamp" approach to auditing Bell's books and missing obvious signs of wrongdoing.

After Mayer Hoffman's five-year contract ended, Fountain Valley put out a call for applicants and got four bids. Ultimately, the city opted for its longtime auditor because its bid was the strongest, according to Holman.

"It turned out that they, again, came through," she said. "They were the top performer."

The current contract between Fountain Valley and Mayer Hoffman has the option for four one-year renewals.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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