The Baltimore Brew has learned that Baltimore City auditor Audrey Askew resigned from her post after officials told her to cook the books.
The numbers in question are federal grants to city agencies as well as cash and investments, which Askew pressed officials for a "qualified" opinion to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
The Brew said that such an opinion would damage Baltimore’s credit rating and result in investigations by federal agencies over the distribution of grant monies.
Askew told The Brew that top officials told her to "go easy" on city finances.
Askew’s sudden departure five weeks ago was never publicized by the city or her boss, Comptroller Joan Pratt.
The Brew spoke with Askew who said, "I am a person of integrity," which essentially implies that she wasn't willing to commit fraud.
Sources say Askew’s "qualified" audit proposal was challenged by Finance Department officials and by SB & Co., the Baltimore County firm contracted by Mayor Catherine Pugh to review the CAFR report.
The Brew said SB founding partner Graylin Smith and Finance Director Henry Raymond pressured Askew to "write-off" federal grant money to balance the books.
After Askew asked Pratt to side against the fraud, she faced "interference" by Deputy Comptroller Harriette Taylor, who began attending CAFR meetings.
The Brew said friction between Askew and Taylor spiraled out of control several weeks before she resigned.
On Monday night, Councilman Ryan Dorsey provided more details about Askew’s resignation:
"As I understand it, the auditor wanted to release audits of the Finance Department, who didn’t want them released. The auditor believed it was wrong not to. The Comptroller threatened to fire the auditor if she did (for legal if petty reasons). The auditor resigned," Dorsey tweeted.
Pratt told The Brew, "I have never threatened the city auditor regarding the issuance of financial statement." She added, "The city auditor voluntarily resigned on February 27, 2019 and thanked me for the opportunity to work with the City of Baltimore."
"I was not aware that she resigned because of the CAFR," She admitted that "there are isolated incidences of grant reporting issues by grant-funded agencies due to long-term decentralization of the grant process."
Raymond didn't respond to any questions from The Brew.
In March, Raymond declined to discuss the CAFR audit. "You need to talk to the comptroller. She is responsible for the audit report," he said.
Askew refused to answer exactly why she resigned.
"Baltimore will never know why, but they know why," Askew said.
She added, "I am a person of integrity, and I am honest. Anything that alters that, I don’t do."
Hired two years ago as deputy auditor, she was named city auditor by Pratt last summer. Askew has been critical of expenditures by Mayor Pugh's staff for using a city-issued credit card to pay for dubious expenses.