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Auditor Mary Hull Caballero

Promoting open and accountable government

Council to consider changes to police oversight case-handling process

City Council will consider changes Thursday, April 13 at 2 p.m. to the process by which police misconduct complaints are assigned for follow up and the timing of public comment at appeal hearings before the Citizen Review Committee. Remember that Council is meeting temporarily in the Portland Building's auditorium on the second floor You can find the Code changes here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/ipr/article/635071

Professional association says Portland audit among the best in 2016

The Association of Local Government Auditors selected City Council Grants: No competition and limited oversight for a Distinguished Knighton Award. Congratulations to Senior Management Auditor Kari Guy and her colleagues for putting together an audit worthy of recognition in 2016. The award will be presented at the association's annual conference in May in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The judges found the audit was “a thorough and well-documented examination of an issue that affects a broad swath of the public. In particular, the audit used effect consistently to clarify for the readers why the findings mattered to policymakers and citizens.”

The association is based in Lexington, Kentucky, and represents 300 local government audit organizations in the U.S. and Canada. Knighton Awards are given annually to one exemplary and usually two distinguished audits per category, which are based on the number of auditors in an office. The City of Portland is considered a large audit shop, which is defined as 11 to 15 auditors. Judges from peer organizations determined City Council Grants was among the best performance audits produced last year. 

-- Mary Hull Caballero

Audit recommendations resonate in wake of Uber news

The New York Times reported on Friday (March 3, 2017) that the transportation network company Uber had “for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities.” The paper reported the goal of Uber’s Greyball program was to identify government and law enforcement officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service. Uber would then show ghost cars in a fake version of the app or show that no cars were available, the Times reported. Uber said that this program denies ride requests to users who are violating their terms of service and gave examples of people aiming to physically harm Uber drivers and “opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”

We audited Portland’s oversight of transportation network companies in 2016 and made recommendations to improve data reliability and inspections:

  • We found that the Transportation Bureau had not verified the ride data that companies reported to the City. Without knowing whether the data was accurate or complete, the Transportation Bureau was at risk of under-collecting fees due to the City and could not measure the extent of potential customer service problems. Transportation officials said during the audit they trusted the data reported by transportation network companies.
  • We also looked at the Transportation Bureau’s inspection process, when inspectors surprise drivers and vehicles on the road by pretending to be customers. While these inspections were proactive and usually went smoothly once started, we noted that surprise inspections became ineffective when companies or drivers recognize the inspector and then change their behavior. And even when drivers are honest and cooperate with inspectors, the Transportation Bureau had no assurance yet against company-level evasion.
  • Companies and drivers must accept any ride request and are not allowed to refuse service to passengers. This requirement is in City Code section 16.40.240.A and 16.40.280.D.
  • We recommended the Transportation Bureau ensure that companies’ self-reported data is accurate and complete, through more robust verification. We also recommended the Transportation Bureau ensure inspections are a surprise to drivers and companies. We made six more recommendations to improve the City’s oversight.

As Portland’s elected and transportation officials develop a response to the revelations about Uber’s alleged deception, you can review the independent and objective information in our audit here.

-- Minh Dan Vuong, Senior Auditor

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.