Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) nominated Patterson on Tuesday to become the next D.C. Auditor — the District government watchdog that reports directly to the legislative branch, a local analog to the federal Government Accountability Office. If confirmed, Patterson would serve at least two years, completing the six-year term of former Auditor Yolanda Branche, who left her post in May for health reasons.
Assuming the D.C. Auditor post would put Patterson back into an oversight role she found quite comfortable as an elected council member, where she strengthened the legislature’s oversight posture and led detailed investigations into the police department and other agencies. In an interview Friday, she said that is what attracted her back to District government after eight years at the Pew Charitable Trusts, most recently as government relations director for the Pew Center on the States.
“Phil and I have talked a lot, including when I was on the council, on how the D.C. Auditor could really be more of a resource to the council,” she said. “Moving in that direction is something … for me and for the chairman, we think that makes sense.”
The D.C. Auditor churns out dozens of reports a year, including evaluations of government programs and advisory neighborhood commission audits, but most tend to land with something less than a thud. Patterson does not have a background as an auditor or accountant, but led several in-depth investigations during her time on the council, most prominently a close look at police handling of mass protests — a probe that helped lead to reforms and helped expose wrongdoing that resulted in massive court settlements.
“There’s really a lot in my track record which is, let me say, auditor-like, improving the performance of the council as an institution but also pushing agencies to do better,” she said. “There has been some good work done [by the D.C. Auditor’s office], and I’m not sure how well the council is aware of that or how that could be used in their oversight.”
Patterson would be the first former council member to hold the auditor post, and her nominations comes with the potential political complications: She has remained involved in city affairs since her 2006 primary loss, occasionally rumored as a candidate and recently chairing Elissa Silverman’s at-large council campaigns. (Patterson stepped down from Silverman’s pending campaign when she learned her nomination would proceed.) But she said she was not concerned her life in the political realm might harm her confirmation prospects.
“I guess I see that as an advantage in terms of understanding what the council can do and can be,” she said, “I can say, ‘You know me, and you know my record. How could I use this office to support the work you want to do?'”
A hearing on Patterson’s nomination is set for Oct. 30; Mendelson said Tuesday he intends to hold a confirmation vote before year’s end.