City Controller Laura Chick is absolutely correct when she insists on the power to examine the performance of other elected officials.
Granted, Iím a former member of the Chick team. She appointed me to a five- year term on the Ethics Commission, which I finished earlier this year. Her instructions to me were along the lines of raise hell, kick ass or something like that. I donít remember the exact words, but you get the idea.
Thatís what city hall needs and thatís why Chick should be applauded for insisting that she has the power to inspect how City Atty. Rocky Delgadilloís office has handled city employee worker compensation claims. Delgadillo replied that Chick didnít have the authority to audit the performance of his workers. Chick fired back by issuing subpoenas to six of them. He sued Chick.
The dispute is now in the hands of the City Council, which clearly doesnít want to give Chick the power. It delayed a decision on her request for $100,000 to hire a lawyer who would defend her against the Delgadillo suit.
The last thing the council or the other elected officials want is an independent controller examining how they do their jobs. They donít want anyone independent in city hall. When I was on the ethics commission, the council consistently dumped our initiatives. Itís the same with anyone in city government who violates the spoken and unspoken rules of the city hall establishment.
The city attorney is an important part of that establishment. The council uses the city attorney to stop any rebelliousness. ďNo,Ē is the motto of that office. Itís always been that way. When the ethics commission was formed almost two decades ago, the council refused to give it a lawyer of its own, preferring the naysayers in the city attorneyís office to be available at all times to keep the commissioners in line.
Chick has the authority. In an e-mail to her supporters, she cited a City Charter section that clearly says that the controller is empowered authorized to conduct performance audits of all departments.
Chick has used that power effectively to reveal failures at the harbor, the airport, water and power and other important city departments. Thatís her job and the council should let her do it.