California Controller John Chiang Tuesday unveiled a package of bills he is sponsoring to provide greater financial oversight of and assistance to cities, counties, and special districts.

“The city of Bell has been a vivid illustration of the devastation that can occur when there is little accountability over how local dollars are spent in our communities,” Chiang said. “It is time for the state to have a role in making sure sound fiscal management is being practiced at the local level so that all public dollars are protected.”

Bell became a symbol of unaccountable government last year after newspaper articles revealed it was paying its city manager almost $800,000 a year and paying similarly inflated salaries to other city officials.

SB 186 by Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, would expand the controller’s authority to perform discretionary audits to ensure compliance with local ordinances and state law.

A bill by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, would authorize the controller to conduct an audit of a local agency facing serious financial stress and would assemble a committee of fiscal experts to provide advice and assistance to local agencies in need.

The package includes three other bills, including Assembly Bill 253, which would allow the controller to prescribe uniform accounting and reporting procedures for cities, as it already does for counties and special districts.

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