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Baltimore city auditor resigns; comptroller says search underway for replacement

Baltimore city auditor resigns; comptroller says search underway for replacement
Baltimore City Hall, built in 1875. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun)

City Auditor Audrey Askew — head of a team of professional analysts charged with assessing city agencies and calling out their missteps — has resigned after less than a year on the job, city officials confirmed Thursday night.

“She informed me on Friday. That's all I can say,” said Askew’s boss, Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt. “It’s a personnel matter.”

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Askew could not be reached for comment.

In the past eight months, she has taken on much of city government.

In December, she told City Council members who oversee her work that the Baltimore Police Department hadn’t supplied information she’d requested and hadn’t returned her calls. The same month, she found the transportation department wasn’t properly reviewing red light and speeding tickets.

In September, she reported that staff members in Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office improperly shared a city credit card and spent thousands of dollars on questionable purchases.

And in August, she said the health department had failed for two years to reach targets for inspecting restaurants and other food service facilities because of understaffing.

Pratt declined to comment on Askew’s tenure or performance.

She said she had faith she would find a qualified replacement.

“We are in the process of doing a search for a city auditor, and the staff is continuing to perform the audits that they have started,” Pratt said. “I’m very confident that [the staff] will continue to perform the audits in our audit program.”

According to a profile of Askew that has since been removed from the city website, she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Towson University, became a certified public accountant in 1996 and has 14 years of public accounting experience, “specializing in government, single audits, pension and nonprofit audits.” She has also taught accounting at Howard Community College.

Pugh said she wasn't aware of Askew's resignation but was confident the city would continue to be subject to thorough auditing.

"We put the money in the budget so that we could have a robust process. We've done more audits than I think most groups have," Pugh said. "That will absolutely continue."

Audits are important, Pugh said, because they "help you to operate better, and it creates transparency, and that's what we want."

A charter amendment voters approved in 2016 and that went into effect in 2017 sharply increased the number of audits that Askew’s office was responsible for. It required 16 agencies to have biennial audits on finances and performance.

City Councilman Eric Costello, chairman of the budget and appropriations committee and a former auditor, said he wished Askew well.

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Costello said he has been happy with how the new audit system has worked.

“The charter amendment has fixed the issue which it was intended to address, which was that audits weren’t getting done on time, and we’ve made a lot of progress on that,” he said.

Costello said he had a lengthy conversation with Pratt after he learned of Askew’s resignation, and Pratt assured him the audits would remain on schedule.

“I’m pleased with the fact that to date, over the past two years, they have been completed on time, and I’m looking forward to continuing the council’s oversight of what is a very important function of city government,” he said.

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