Edina's top city official is crossing the border to help keep vigil over Minneapolis' finances.

A City Council panel on Wednesday gave initial approval to the appointment of Edina City Manager Scott Neal to the city's newly reconfigured audit committee. Neal, a South Minneapolis resident, will serve as the council's appointee to the six-person body.

The city's internal audit function is expected to restart this fall after going dormant when the city's only auditing employee departed this January.

Neal isn't afraid to speak his mind. He and southwest Minneapolis Council Member Linea Palmisano got in a public spat this January after a blog post concerning parking exposed some tensions between the neighboring communities.

But the two have patched things up, so much so that Palmisano, the chair of the new audit committee, said she asked Neal to apply. The two meet occasionally to discuss topics pertaining to 50th and France, a commercial district that straddles the two cities.

"It’s surprising how many public policy things we’ve disagreed on in the past," Palmisano said Wednesday. "But one of the great virtues of Scott Neal as an add to this audit committee is [as] somebody who understands municipal process.”

Neal presided as city manager of Eden Prairie before coming to Edina in 2010; neither have their own internal audit functions. He has also held that role in Northfield, Minnesota, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and Norris Tennessee.

His appointment represents a change in direction for the audit committee, which used to rely more heavily on auditing experts than those with government expertise.

The committee was recently reconfigured following the departure of the audit department's sole employee, auditor Magdy Mossaad. They will eventually be responsible for overseeing and reviewing audits from Mossaad's replacement, who likely won't be hired until this fall.

Previous citizen appointees to the old committee included Wells Fargo auditor Darrell Ellsworth and auditing software executive Stephanie Woodruff. Their terms were not renewed.

The new committee features just two citizens, Neal and existing appointee Mark Oyaas, a lobbyist. That's in addition to three council members and a Park Board commissioner.

“I think that the way council member Palmisano describes this committee, the skillset that’s going to be important is knowing what to ask and who to ask and how to integrate and synthesize the information you get," Neal said in an interview, noting he is not volunteering for the job in his capacity as city manager of Edina.

"I think you don’t have to be a CPA or a lawyer to be able to do that. I think I’ve worked in enough cities and seen enough city governments work that I know how to do that and I know how to do it in a comfortable way.”

The Star Tribune wrote a profile of Neal in 2010, when he joined Edina. Read it here.