Leadership Team

Speaking Truth to Power

Meet the innovative minds devoted to improving California's programs and services.

State Auditor Elaine Howle in button-up business shirt with stone wall blurred in background

Californians rely on high quality government services and we are here to ensure that State and local agencies deliver. As the State's independent watchdog, you can count on our teams to publish factual reports with insightful recommendations to improve government.

Elaine M. Howle, CPA
California State Auditor

Chief Executive Profiles


State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, CPA

Elaine M. Howle, CPA

California State Auditor

Chief Deputy State Auditor John Billington

John Billington

Chief Deputy State Auditor, Audits

Chief Deputy State Auditor Paul Navarro

Paul Navarro

Chief Deputy State Auditor, Operations


Margarita Fernandez, CPA, Chief of Public Affairs & Quality Assurance

Margarita Fernández, CPA

Chief of Public Affairs & Quality Assurance

Stephanie Ramirez-Ridgeway, Chief Legal Counsel

Stephanie Ramirez-Ridgeway

Chief Legal Counsel


Work for California's Best.

Elaine Howle

California State Auditor


California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, CPA

California State Auditor Elaine Howle has dedicated her life to public service. Elaine began her career with the office over 35 years ago. She advanced through the office's leadership roles and was appointed California State Auditor in 2000 where she has served for 20 years.

Under Elaine's leadership, the California State Auditor's office has upheld its legacy as a trusted source for information and continued to raise and redefine expectations when it comes to evaluating California's most pressing policy issues such as homelessness, K-12 education, and disaster recovery.

Elaine is recognized nationally as a leader in her profession. Many other states and countries, such as China and India, look to the California State Auditor's office when they want to identify ways to improve their operations and expand their impact.


8 Things to know about
California State Auditor Elaine Howle

John Billington

Chief Deputy State Auditor, Audits


Chief Deputy State Auditor John Billington

John oversees all performance evaluations and the implementation of the office's strategic plan.

John supports the State Auditor by helping performance evaluation teams strengthen their analytical approaches and by providing feedback on the content, clarity, and style of written reports. He is known for successfully mentoring staff and for his dedication to the office's continued success.

John first joined the office in 1983 as a performance/policy evaluator and worked at the office until it temporarily closed in 1992. John then worked at the Employee Development Department for 15 years in various management and executive positions. John came back to the office in 2007 to lead teams and was promoted to principal performance/policy evaluator. He retired in 2015 and came back to serve as Chief Deputy State Auditor of Audits in 2018.

John is an avid soccer fan who enjoys attending both college and professional matches and is looking forward to Sacramento competing in Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League.

Margarita Fernández

Chief of Public Affairs & Quality Assurance


Margarita Fernandez, CPA, Chief of Public Affairs & Quality Assurance

Margarita is responsible for public relations and is the spokesperson for the office. She conducts interviews and deals with inquiries from the press, the public, and other governmental officials. She manages and oversees the development of external communication and outreach. When she's not talking about our work, Margarita ensures our office complies with professional standards. She is also the liaison with federal, state, and local government officials, standard setting bodies, and national professional organizations. She serves on the executive committee for the Western Intergovernmental Audit Forum and on various national committees with the National State Auditors Association.

Margarita began her career as an auditor in the office upon graduating from CSU Sacramento. She became a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Government Financial Manager and took on other roles in the office. Margarita loves to start each day with a good cup of coffee from one of her favorite local spots and when she travels, she loves a good cup of coffee from a local coffee roaster from there!

Stephanie Ramirez-Ridgeway

Chief Legal Counsel


Stephanie Ramirez-Ridgeway, Chief Legal Counsel

As our top attorney, Stephanie provides legal counsel on performance evaluations, financial audits, investigative reports, information technology, information privacy, and personnel matters. She also provides executive level oversight of the investigative reporting division.

Stephanie began her legal career in the private sector. Her public sector career began in 2000 at the Legislative Counsel Bureau where she worked her way up to Deputy Legislative Counsel III. Between 2004 and 2008, she worked for the State Personnel Board as an Attorney III. She joined the California State Auditor's office in 2008 and was promoted to Chief Counsel in 2017.

In her personal time, Stephanie enjoys camping, fishing, cooking, and traveling with her family.

Deputy Executive Profiles


Mike Tilden

Deputy State Auditor
Financial Audits and
Performance/Policy
Evaluations

Mike Tilden oversees staff who conduct financial audits and performance/policy evaluations.

Mike started his career in the private sector before joining our team as a performance/policy evaluator in 1994. Since then he has advanced through our leadership roles and was promoted to Deputy State Auditor in 2018. Mike has worked on over 60 reports including the annual financial audit, local high-risk audits, and performance/policy evaluations spanning topics including workers compensation, California's foster care system, and the availability of water resources. Mike is also the architect of the California State Auditor's Local Government High-Risk Dashboard.

Mike grew up in California and enjoys exploring our Golden State while road tripping, camping, and hiking.

Ben Belnap

Deputy State Auditor
Performance/Policy
Evaluations and
Data Analysis

Ben Belnap oversees staff who conduct performance/policy evaluations and data analyses.

Ben started his career as a performance/policy evaluator in 2001 and advanced through our leadership roles and was promoted to Deputy State Auditor in 2014. Ben has worked on over 40 reports spanning topics including child protective services, the University of California, and Medi-Cal. He was also chosen to serve on the 2020 Redistricting Commission's Applicant Review Panel. Ben is active in the Sacramento community, coaching numerous sports teams upon which his four children play.

John Baier

Deputy State Auditor
Performance/Policy
Evaluations

John Baier oversees staff who conduct performance/policy evaluations.

John started his career as a financial auditor in 1985. He went to work for CalTrans briefly in 1993 before returning to the office. He has since advanced through our leadership roles and was promoted to Deputy State Auditor in 2018. John has worked on over 90 reports spanning topics including the annual financial audit, California energy markets, technology projects, and the University of California. John attended the University of Oregon and his interests include hiking in the Sierra, military history, and following Oregon Ducks sports. John is a Certified Public Accountant.

Shannan Truong

Deputy State Auditor
Investigations

Shannan Truong oversees our investigations division, which evaluates allegations made under the California Whistleblower Protection Act.

Shannan joined our team in 2019 after years of investigative experience at the Department of Justice and CalHR. She oversees a team of 15 investigators charged with digging into allegations of wrongdoing and summarizing their findings for public reports. The investigative reporting team has substantiated important allegations of nepotism, government waste, and misuse of government funds.

Shannan is a local, having grown up in Sacramento and Woodland. She enjoys hiking with her husband and two teenage kids, and taking the family dog on long walks.

Kathleen Harris

Deputy State Auditor
Administration

Kathleen Harris oversees our business and financial services, graphic design, human resources, and information technology teams.

Kathleen started her career at the California State Auditor's office as a personnel specialist in 1997. She was promoted up the ranks to analyst, manager, and then Deputy State Auditor. She leads a dynamic team dedicated to supporting and improving the office's operations.

Kathleen likes to get away to the beach whenever she can and enjoys spending time with family, especially her first grandbaby, Robbie.