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Washington Post: Delegate Hope may propose Arlington be able to hire external auditor Print


Created:  Thursday, January 15, 2015

State Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) is considering submitting a bill to the General Assembly that would give the Arlington County Board the authority to hire an external auditor, which could give board members an independent view into the county's financial practices, which have come under increased scrutiny in the past year.

Board members John Vihstadt (I) and Libby Garvey (D) have pushed for such a position, but county officials have pointed out that the Arlington board only has the authority to hire a county manager, attorney and clerk; all other staff members report to the county manager. The two most recently elected members have raised questions about financial transparency in the county's budgeting as they have sought to cut spending for major capital projects such as the now-canceled streetcar and the now-delayed aquatics center.

Hope said he has drafted language that would give Arlington the authority to hire an external auditor, but before he submits it, he is seeking public input from residents on whether such a law is necessary.

"I consider this a good government bill," said Hope, who represents the central portion of Arlington County and who last spring urged the board to hold a public referendum on the streetcar. "If you have an auditor, you want that person to be independent because [he or she] would be in a position of critiquiing the county management."

The bill would affect all local governments that operate under the county manager form of government, which includes Arlington and Henrico County. Virginia cities, and some counties such as Fairfax, already have the authority to hire external auditors.

If the bill passes and becomes law, the County Board would make the final decision about whether to exercise the authority, Hope noted.