RIALTO - The city has not yet released the results of an audit conducted last year to account for at least $20 million in perchlorate-related expenses. Though the city is not under any legal obligation to release the audit at this time, members of the council have been saying for said they intend to release the results.

The council members have not voted on a date to release the report and have explained the delay in releasing the results by saying the city has been busy.

"I'm in favor of releasing it the way it is," Councilman Ed Scott said, arguing that the audit should not be edited before it is released. Scott is a member of the council's perchlorate subcommittee.

In April, the City Council hired an auditor to examine the city's expenses related to the perchlorate contaminating the local water supply. The Reith Co., a Pasadena-based forensic accountant, conducted the audit last year. A forensic accountant's work can be used in court in fraud cases. Perchlorate is the primary contaminant flowing from industrial sites on the city's north end. The city has filed a federal lawsuit and has pursued regulatory action against dozens of parties it suspects are responsible for the contamination. The cost of that battle and the cost of treatment to date is likely at least $20 million, city officials say.

After The Sun filed a request for a copy of the audit under the California Public Records Act, City Attorney Bob Owen, who was later fired by the City Council, wrote

that the audit did not have to be released because it was still in draft form and because it was connected to the city's federal lawsuit. Its ties to the lawsuit mean it is exempt from disclosure. The council, he wrote, could decide to release it anyway.

It's true that the city doesn't have to release the audit until the litigation comes to an end, said Terry Francke, general counsel of the nonprofit open-government organization CalAware.

A court in Ventura County, though, has ruled in another case that the total amount spent and the general ways in which money related to lawsuits was used does have to be released, Francke said.

In October, Owen released a general breakdown of how $18 million had been spent over a four-year period. But the city has continued to spend more money since spring of 2007, when Owen's breakdown stops counting.

Firing Owen probably delayed the release of the audit, said Councilwoman Winnie Hanson, the other member of the perchlorate subcommittee.

The city is trying to figure out how to release the information without jeopardizing the lawsuit by revealing its legal strategy, she said.

Transitioning between city attorneys has distracted the city from the audit, Scott said. But he said he intends to refocus on the issue when he returns from a city trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with officials.

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