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Denton reboots search for city auditor

Update 12:45 p.m.: This story has been updated to include the City Council's discussion of the downtown reinvestment grant program. 

The Denton City Council agreed Tuesday to begin a search for a new internal auditor immediately.

The city’s former auditor, Craig Hametner, resigned abruptly Oct. 16 after only eight months on the job.

Human resources director Carla Romine told council members that they could go back to the executive search firm that recruited Hametner for help, since its services are guaranteed for two years. In other words, if a candidate doesn’t stay and work for the city for two years, Dallas-based Waters & Co. helps the city find another candidate at no charge.

“There’s no professional services fee; it’s just out of pocket expenses,” Romine said.

The city paid Waters $21,500 in its first search for an auditor earlier this year. That fee will be waived, but the city would be billed for any incidental advertising or travel expenses, Romine said. 

Hametner’s sudden departure remains a mystery. He answered to the City Council and told no one on the council or at City Hall why he was leaving. Several council members have said that he gave no indication that he was considering resigning. In his resignation letter, he said he was retiring. He is 62.

To date, he has not returned calls and messages for comment from the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Hametner was an experienced municipal auditor, having worked for many years in Garland and Dallas. Before coming to Denton, he worked as an internal auditor for League City for two years. League City, population 84,000, is about 25 miles south of Houston. Hametner was that city's first internal auditor. He also resigned abruptly in League City. 

Hametner’s departure came about 10 days after his investigation into the city's financial relationship with the Denton Parks Foundation became public.

Mayor Chris Watts vowed that the investigation into the long-running relationship between the parks department and the foundation would be completed. 

Fellow council members have vowed to keep the auditor position filled even though previous councils have not. Denton's budget grew to a $1 billion annual enterprise with no internal auditor, except for a brief time a decade ago. The city's only other internal auditor was hired in 2007 and forced out in 2010.

The parks foundation recently turned over the financial documents the city auditor needed to complete the investigation, according to City Manager Todd Hileman.

However, no one is looking at the documents right now, Hileman said.

Council members met for about two hours behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss the status of the investigation and the role an interim city auditor might play.  

In an interview after the closed session, Hileman said the council hadn’t made a final decision about hiring an interim auditor. 

“We’ll see if there’s an ability for someone to fill in for a couple of days a week until the position is filled,” Hileman said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.

In Other Action

During its work session and special-called meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council also:

  • Agreed with a consultant’s recommendation to power the city with 70 percent renewable energy by 2019, and 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. The move means the city will likely sign two more deals, one from a solar energy farm in West Texas and another from a wind energy farm along the Texas Gulf Coast.

  • Directed the economic development staff to fund the downtown reinvestment grants through the downtown tax-increment finance zone.

  • Postponed a contract award to a new Denton company that would manage Stoke, the city’s hub for tech startups, until certain changes can be made to the contract. The company’s plan includes taking over Stoke from the city by 2021.

  • Awarded a one-year contract to Modern Geosciences of Flower Mound to improve gas well inspections citywide, and particularly near Denton schools and the Denton State Supported Living Center.