When it comes to networking, California county auditors and controllers are way out there. A sophisticated online system links auditors, accountants and other financial officers, giving them access to reams of information about their peers and other staff members across the state.

Any employee with entree to the system can look up a contact by name, region, county, job function and even system. For example, a payroll employee using PeopleSoft in Santa Clara County could use the database to find other California payroll workers who use the same software. The database also allows auditing employees to post their photos and information about their departments, creating de facto homepages for auditors who do not have access to their own Internet systems.

The network, which has been in place for two and half years, has cost $8,000 so far to develop and maintain. But maintenance is a shoestring operation. Employees in individual counties are trained through a training tree to keep their own listings--phone numbers, e-mail addresses and photos--up to date.

A winner of one of the Government Finance Officers Association's 2000 Awards for Excellence, the system also hosts forums about topics from city incorporations to cash handling and includes pages with relevant documents, links and sample program implementations.

The site has worked so well for the auditors and controllers that they expect other state professions to catch on any day. "We think the next steps would be to have this data for sheriffs and assessors, and then to link those together," says Sonoma County's assistant auditor- controller Mark Walsh, who developed much of the Web site. "They can share information that might be interesting."