Edina's top city official is crossing the border to help scrutinize Minneapolis' finances.
A Minneapolis City Council panel 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-member body.
The city's internal audit function is expected to restart this fall after being dormant since January, when the city's only auditing employee departed.
Neal has not been afraid to take on city officials across the border. He and southwest Minneapolis Council Member Linea Palmisano got in a public spat in January after a blog post about parking exposed some tension between the neighboring communities.
But the two have repaired their relationship, so much so that Palmisano, chairwoman 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, retail and restaurant 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. He has also held that role in Northfield, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and Norris, Tenn.
His appointment represents a change in direction for the audit committee, which used to rely more heavily on auditing experts than 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 will not 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. Three council members and a Park Board commissioner also serve.
"I think that the way Council Member Palmisano describes this committee, the skill set 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.
"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."