City commissioners soon will have a new set of watchful eyes in City Hall.
Michael Eglinski, a Lawrence native and longtime auditor with the city of Kansas City, Mo., has been named Lawrence's first city auditor - a new position that will conduct performance reviews of city services and seek to improve efficiency in City Hall.
"This is a position that makes an awful lot of sense to me, especially because you're talking about the public trust here," said Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who led the search for the new position.
Eglinski will be charged with conducting reviews - or audits - of various city departments, services and policies to determine whether they're working as well as they should, or whether there's wasteful spending or activity occurring inside city government.
It's a role that he has long played for Kansas City, Mo. Eglinski served for about 15 years as an audit manager in that city's auditing department. In May, he became the director of policy analysis for Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser, who previously was Kansas City's lead auditor.
"This position can identify ways to improve services, identify ways to save money," Eglinski said. "It is a position that really can help the City Commission do its job."
The new auditor will report directly to the City Commission, and will not be under the supervision of the city manager. Commissioners and Eglinski said they expect the auditor would work closely with City Manager David Corliss, but added it was important that Eglinski be independent of all city departments.
"This position isn't an indictment of anything that has happened in the past, but really is a recognition that it is always wise to have an independent set of eyes reviewing an organization," Chestnut said.
The position pays an annual salary of $87,500. The position was approved as part of the city's 2007 budget, but had not been filled because of budget woes. The city's budget remains tight, but commissioners said the new position would be a good financial investment.
"On the surface, I'm sure there are people asking why we're spending this type of money," Mayor Sue Hack said. "But a major point of this position is to help us ensure that we're spending money judiciously. I think this position will give us some very valuable information for future budgets."
Now, commissioners have to decide what issues they want the auditor to begin studying. Chestnut said he would lobby fellow commissioners to order a review of the city's development process. City Hall has received complaints that it takes building projects an inordinate amount of time to get through the review and approval process. He also said a thorough review of the processes in place with the Utility Department may be in order, especially because work is under way to build an approximately $80 million sewer treatment plant.
Hack said commissioners would need to sit down soon with Eglinski to determine a work plan.
"I don't have a list, but I also don't have anything that is off limits," Hack said.
Eglinski, 43, said he also would make suggestions after studying the most recent citizen survey and getting to know City Hall operations better.
Eglinski - who has an economics degree from Kansas University and a master's degree from Stockholm University in Sweden - will begin work the week of Feb. 25.