Brown cuts stimulus money watchdog


In the shadows of the State Capitol, a tiny office headed by Inspector General Laura Chick oversaw how the state has been spending $50 billion of federal stimulus money on public works projects, schools and other government programs. But it's one of the first casualties of Governor-elect Jerry Brown -- axed as of Jan. 1, just two days before Brown's sworn in.

"I think there's symbolism here too. They're saving money, and there's the Governor being able to stand up at the beginning of his term and say. 'I've cut things that are painful to cut. I've cut to the bare bones,'" she said.

Brown has promised to cut his own office by 25 percent. Eliminating the IG's office six months early saves the state $700,000; some of which is eligible for federal reimbursement.

In a statement, his transition team said: "In response to the state's multi-billion dollar budget deficit, Governor-elect Jerry Brown will be streamlining operations and eliminating redundancies in the Governor's Office and throughout state government."

Critics, though, question whether it's a good idea to get rid of someone who actually saves the state money by rooting out wasteful spending.

During her 20-month tenure, the Schwarzenegger-appointee brought her tough-as-nails reputation to Sacramento, including 27 reports that uncovered 100 problems and only half of the stimulus money has been spent.

"Sometimes, I think the way people were reacting to me, it's as though I'm WikiLeaks," Chick said.

Six pending audits will be taken over by Bureau of State Audits, the State Controller's Office and the Office of Audits and Evaluations.

Chick says the others don't do what she can do.

"Most of the existing watching that will continue go on is from way up here. We were down in the trenches," she said.

Ironically, Chick, a Democrat, was sworn into her second term as Los Angeles' City Controller by the man who's firing her.

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