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Auditor Mary Hull Caballero

Promoting open and accountable government

Tonight's Eastside engagement postponed to Jan. 5

The East Portland Community Center is closing today (Dec.15) at 5 p.m., so we must postpone the discussion about the Auditor's Charter proposal. Please join us Jan. 5 at the Center, 740 SE 106th Ave., from 6-7:30 p.m. 

The brown bag discussion scheduled for Friday, Dec. 16 at City Hall from 12-1 p.m. in the Lovejoy Room is another option. Hope to see you tomorrow or at the East Portland Community Center on Jan. 5. 

Let's discuss how to protect audits, investigations

Please take advantage of two opportunities in December and January to discuss Charter amendments City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero believes are necessary to protect the Auditor’s ability to hold City government accountable through independent audits and investigations. Your views will help shape the final proposal from the Auditor that City Council will be consider in January.

Friday, Dec. 16, Brown Bag from 12-1 p.m.

City Hall, Lovejoy Room

1221 SW 4th Ave.

Thursday, Jan. 5, 6-7:30 p.m.

East Portland Community Center

740 SE 106th Ave.

Auditor Hull Caballero will describe organizational structures that create conflicts of interest between her office and executive branch bureaus the Auditor must hold accountable. Other jurisdictions have structures designed to protect auditors and investigators from impediments or reprisal for simply doing their jobs. The Auditor believes Portland should adopt changes to ensure the Auditor’s Office is able to meet the public’s expectations for transparent and accountable government.

The changes to be discussed include:

  • Placing the Independent Police Review and the Office of the Ombudsman into Charter.
  • Authorizing the Auditor to obtain independent legal advice that is focused on the mission of the Auditor’s Office.
  • Creating a budget process that ensures the Auditor’s Office is appropriately funded and insulated from political interference.
  • Affirming the Auditor’s Office is autonomous from the Office of Management and Finance and other bureaus.

If translation services or other accommodations are needed, please call (503) 823-4082 by Monday, Dec. 12, so they can be arranged.

Charter safeguards needed to protect audits, investigations

This week I announced a Charter amendment proposal to ensure the public’s interest is protected by an organizational structure within the City of Portland that enables unfettered audits and investigations of bureaus.

The proposal will be discussed at a City Council work session scheduled for Jan. 10 at 9:30 a.m. Hull Caballero will seek Council approval on Jan. 25 to refer the Charter changes to voters in May 2017.

Independence is the bedrock of the City Auditor’s ability to serve the public with reliable and credible audits and investigations. The Auditor’s Office today is more of a watchdog than it was 30 years ago, and its independence has become impaired by organizational entanglements with bureaus it must hold accountable. The Charter should be updated to ensure my office is able to meet the public’s expectations for accountability and transparency in City government.

The changes I am proposing essentially change responsibility for decision-making about the Auditor’s Office from the City’s executive branch to the elected Auditor. They would address the organizational impairments that exist and mitigate the inherent conflicts of interest caused by Portland’s commission form of government. If adopted, the Auditor would be solely responsible for ensuring the office is accountable to the public with appropriate management controls and periodic internal and independent assessments, the results of which would be readily available.

 The Charter amendment proposal includes:

  • Placing the Independent Police Review and the Office of the Ombudsman into Charter. Currently, these functions, which investigate Portlanders’ complaints against the City, are in Code and can be removed from the Auditor’s Office or eliminated by a simple majority vote of the City Council. Placing them in Charter will mean only a vote of the people could eliminate these offices, which have been in the Auditor’s Office for 15 years. Charter protections would insulate these offices from political pressure and reprisal.
  • Authorizing the Auditor to obtain independent legal advice that is focused on the mission of the Auditor’s Office. The Auditor should be able to obtain independent legal advice rather than being required to rely on the same attorneys who advise those she holds accountable. This is especially important when investigations involve other elected officials who appoint and supervise the City Attorney.
  • Creating an independent budget process that ensures the Auditor’s Office is appropriately funded and insulated from political interference. The current process leaves the Auditor’s budget vulnerable to other elected officials whose bureaus are the subjects of audits and investigations. An independent budget process would respect both the City Council’s fiduciary role and the Auditor’s watchdog role.
  • Affirming the Auditor’s Office is autonomous from the Office of Management and Finance and other bureaus. The Auditor should be responsible for personnel, procurement and other decisions and well as ensuring that proper controls are in place to comply with state and federal laws. The Auditor will periodically procure or conduct internal quality control reviews of divisions in the Auditor’s Office and report results to the public.

See news coverage:

Our Opinion: City should turn its watchdog loose (Tribune) http://portlandtribune.com/pt/10-opinion/334355-213937-our-opinion-city-should-turn-its-watchdog-loose

Auditor seeks more autonomy with reform measure (Tribune) http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/334384-214175-auditor-seeks-more-autonomy-with-reform-measure

Portland City Auditor seeks more autonomy for her office (OPB) http://www.opb.org/news/article/mary-hull-caballero-portland-city-auditor-more-autonomy-for-office/

Portland’s elected auditor wants more autonomy (Oregonian) http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2016/11/portlands_elected_auditor_want.html#incart_river_home

Hall Monitor – A declaration of independence: Portland’s Auditor says she’s unduly strained. She wants you to change that. (Mercury) http://www.portlandmercury.com/news/2016/11/30/18720329/hall-monitora-declaration-of-independence

Trump Campaign pays Police Bureau’s security bill

As a profession, auditing is often about sowing seeds and waiting (sometimes waiting for a long time) for results. Sometimes results from years-ago audits show up today, and we can track improvements over time.

But for one recent audit, our results were much more immediate, specific, and unquestionably caused by our audit work. In April, we issued an audit on presidential campaign visits. We found that in recent years, the City had spent at least $180,000 on protecting candidates campaigning or fundraising in Portland, but had not sought reimbursement. Police officers either worked overtime, which is an added cost to the City’s budget, or they were drawn away from their regular duties. We recommended that the City follow its policy and charge political campaigns or their organizers for the City’s cost.

In response, the Police Bureau agreed with our recommendation.  In June, they billed a candidate’s campaign for more than $18,000 to cover Portland’s cost of sending police officers to Eugene, where they provided public safety services at a campaign rally. 

In August, the campaign sent a check for the billed amount to the Police Bureau.

We’ll follow up more fully after Portland has billed for the costs of any other candidate visits this campaign season. We appreciate the Police Bureau’s efforts to implement our audit recommendations and are pleased with the immediate impact of our audit and the resulting reimbursement to Portland for its overtime costs to provide City services for campaign events.

-- Drummond Kahn and Minh Dan Vuong, Audit Services

Input sought for police accountability changes

City Council will hold a town hall meeting Monday, August 1, to solicit opinions about potential changes to the police accountability system to ensure compliance with the Department of Justice settlement agreement. The subject of the town hall is a proposal to streamline the complaint review process.

Portland Community College

Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth

Terrell Hall, Room 122

6 p.m.-8 p.m.

You also can submit your views in writing to the Mayor and Commissioners if you are unable to attend the town hall. Find their contact information here.