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The City of Portland, Oregon

Auditor Mary Hull Caballero

Promoting open and accountable government

Mayor's proposed budget violates Charter, Auditor's independence

The budget the Mayor proposed May 7, 2019, violates City Charter and undermines the independence of the Auditor’s Office. The Auditor exercised her Charter authority last August and withdrew her consent to house the City Hearings Office after City Council declined to provide enough resources to ensure it operates effectively for the public. Mayor Wheeler put the Hearings Office back in the Auditor’s Office budget anyway. He swore an oath to uphold the City Charter. City Council must correct this violation before approving the budget on May 20. You can submit written comments to City Council on the budget here.

“City Charter requires the consent of the Auditor before Council can assign duties to the Auditor’s Office,” said City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero. “Council has no such consent, and the Mayor unlawfully put the Hearings Office back into the Auditor’s Office budget. I am calling on all Council members to remove the Hearings Office from my budget before they vote to approve the overall City budget.”

Documents: 

  1. Portland City Charter: Auditor’s duties and required consent https://www.portlandoregon.gov/citycode/28241#cid_643452
  2. Auditor’s 2019 memo withdrawing consent to house Hearings Office
  3. Auditor’s Requested Budget without the Hearings Office https://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/752691
  4. Auditor’s April 28, 2020 email seeking confirmation before budget announced
  5. City Council’s April 29, 2020 memo seeking reconsideration
  6. Auditor’s May 5, 2020 response to City Council
  7. Auditor’s 2016 memo withdrawing consent to house Hearings Office

Police overtime audit wins national recognition

Cover of Police Overtime audit reportLEXINGTON, KY -- The 2019 Exemplary Knighton Award for best performance audit in the Large shop category has been awarded to the City of Portland Auditor’s Office by the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA).

The report, Police Overtime: Management is lax despite high overtime use, was judged on several key elements, such as the potential for significant impact, the persuasiveness of the conclusions, the focus on improving government efficiency and effectiveness, and its clarity and conciseness.

With police departments facing increased scrutiny throughout the country and Portland facing historically high levels of police overtime, the Portland City Auditor’s office eschewed a traditional approach of looking at overtime that might limit the scope to financial impacts. Instead, the City Auditor produced a report that took a broader overview in illustrating the effects of excessive police overtime, including the impact of officer fatigue as it relates to both job performance and public interaction.

The report also details the lack of controls over overtime assignments and the risks associated with the secondary employment of officers by private entities. To reach their findings, auditors combined disparate data sets to identify and analyze the use of overtime by individual officers and tie it to specific shifts and situations. In the course of its work, the audit team identified a flaw in the daily assignment system that scheduled more officers than required per shift and made recommendations to improve overtime tracking. The audit also made recommendations to limit the amount of overtime that officers can work and to ensure that outside employment of officers was consistent with the Police Bureau’s policies.

Finally, the judges found the audit to be well written and easy to read with many illustrative examples that highlighted the cause and effect of the findings and drew the interest of the reader. You can find a copy of the report here.

Each year, local government audit organizations from around the U.S. and Canada submit their best performance audit reports for judging. The purpose of the competition is to improve government services by encouraging and increasing levels of excellence among local government auditors. Judges from peer organizations determined that this audit was among the best of 2019.

The Association of Local Government Auditors is a national audit association founded in 1985 committed to supporting and improving local government auditing through advocacy, collaboration, education, and training, while upholding and promoting the highest standards of professional ethics.

Clarification for Council's questions about Citizen Review Committee

City Council considered an agenda item this week to appoint and reappoint members to the Citizen Review Committee, which is an 11-member advisory body on police accountability matters. Some Council members raised questions that were beyond the scope of the item and included misinformation. Find the audio of the April 1, 2020, Council meeting here. Item No. 247 begins at 7:14. I wrote the following to correct the record and provide context.

From: Hull Caballero, Mary
Sent: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 4:22 PM
To: Wheeler, Ted <Ted.Wheeler@portlandoregon.gov>; Commissioner Eudaly <chloe@portlandoregon.gov>; Fritz, Amanda <Amanda.Fritz@portlandoregon.gov>; Commissioner Hardesty <joann@portlandoregon.gov>
Cc: Crail, Tim <Tim.Crail@portlandoregon.gov>; Dennis, Kristin <Kristin.Dennis@portlandoregon.gov>; Edwards, Karly <Karly.Edwards@portlandoregon.gov>; Fox, Jamal <Jamal.Fox@portlandoregon.gov>; Greene, Nike <Nike.Greene@portlandoregon.gov>; Lamb, Amanda <Amanda.Lamb@portlandoregon.gov>; Runkel, Marshall <Marshall.Runkel@portlandoregon.gov>; Schmanski, Sonia <Sonia.Schmanski@portlandoregon.gov>; Caldwell, Ross <Ross.Caldwell@portlandoregon.gov>; Walton-Macaulay, Dana <Dana.Walton-Macaulay@portlandoregon.gov>; Konev, Irene <Irene.Konev@portlandoregon.gov>; Reeve, Tracy <Tracy.Reeve@portlandoregon.gov>
Subject: Follow up to your questions about the Citizen Review Committee

Mayor and Commissioners,

I am following up on some questions that came up at the Council meeting this morning related to the Citizen Review Committee. I appreciate Dana Walton-Macaulay doing her dead-level best to respond to the matters raised, but her length of service with the City is short and some of the issues were outside of the scope of the agenda item to which she was prepared to speak.

Commissioner Hardesty’s question about Committee-member viability and frustration:

The Citizen Review Committee is an advisory body. It has two primary responsibilities: to make recommendations to improve Police Bureau policy and operations and hear appeals when a party disagrees with a Commander’s findings on a misconduct investigation. The Committee’s job in an appeal is to decide if the Commander’s findings were reasonable based on the evidence and recommend a different decision be made when the Committee thinks the Commander erred.

Every entity in the City’s police accountability system makes recommendations to the Chief and Police Commissioner, who solely are authorized to decide if misconduct occurred and whether discipline will be imposed. They can and do disagree with recommendations from Commanders, the Police Review Board, Citizen Review Committee, Internal Affairs, and IPR.

Changing the Committee’s appellate standard of review to a preponderance of the evidence standard will not meet the force of the Committee members’ frustration. Although they express it in different ways, they are frustrated that those empowered to make final decisions sometimes don’t do what the Committee tells them to do. I think we can all relate to sinking time into an advisory role and then feeling disappointed when the decision-makers go in a different direction than we’d like. It is not unusual for volunteers to resign from boards for a variety of reasons, frustration with decision-makers being one of them as we’ve seen with the Public Utility Board, the Portland Committee on Community-engaged Policing, and the Community Advisory Board in the Justice Department settlement agreement.    

 If you are serious about easing the Committee’s frustration, then you should be willing to make them decision-makers instead of recommenders. To do that, you must:

  1. Change the Code to give them that authority;
  2. Get approval from the Department of Justice for the change;
  3. Negotiate the change with the police unions; and,
  4. Provide budget for additional staff support and possibly salaries for Committee  members, given the intensive training and time commitment they’d need to take on this role.

It’s my understanding each of you have been asked to do this by Committee members in some form or another, but I’m unaware of any sustained interest on your part in doing so. If I am wrong about that, I would recommend scheduling a Council Work Session to hear from all parts of the accountability system and the public before you change it. As with any system, changing one part affects the others, so you should fully understand the repercussions of policy options before you enact one.

In the meantime, we will continue working on structural and technical barriers to ease access to information for IPR and the Citizen Review Committee, because we are obligated to carry out the Code as it currently exists. I would also invite your help on some issues that reside in State law that constrain our ability to be more transparent about misconduct cases, which is among my priorities to improve the system.

Commissioner Hardesty’s question about OIR Group recommendations:

OIR Group reviews officer-involved shootings and in-custody death cases. They have not made recommendations about the Citizen Review Committee.

Commissioner Fritz’s question about legal advisors at Committee meetings:

The City Attorney’s Office advises the Citizen Review Committee. Questions related to specific appeals must be submitted to the City Attorney’s Office before the hearing to give it time to research and respond. There was a time when Deputy City Attorneys rotated into meetings, but they only advised on procedural and open meetings questions, not on specific matters related to an appeal. You will recognize the process as the same used for City Council meetings in which the City’s attorneys decline to provide legal advice in a public meeting. Most volunteer committees in the City do not have in-meeting legal advisors. Tracy Reeve discussed with me her reasoning to stop sending an attorney to Citizen Review Committee meetings, and I agreed with her decision given the workload in her office.

The Auditor’s General Counsel advises the accountability functions in the Auditor’s Office, including Independent Police Review. The General Counsel does not advise entities outside of the Auditor’s Office and defers to the City Attorney’s Office on matters of Citywide concern, such as open meetings and employment law.

While IPR Director Ross Caldwell and Deputy Director Dana Walton-Macaulay are attorneys, they do not provide legal advice to the Committee. They attend meetings to provide information to the Committee and receive input from it. Other IPR staff attend to provide administrative support. The Captain of Internal Affairs or his designee also attend the Committee’s monthly meetings to receive input on his operations.

Fraud Hotline investigation finds waste, mismanagement in Parks & Recreation

Fraud Hotline logo

Portlanders care deeply about keeping their government accountable. But let’s face it — the City is susceptible to mismanagement, wasteful practices and, at its worst, outright fraud.

One way the Auditor’s Office fights against that behavior is with our Fraud Hotline. The Hotline allows the public, City employees, and contractors to confidentially report fraud, waste, and abuse of position.

Investigators in the Auditor’s Office review every tip and pursue investigations when warranted. In cases where we find evidence of fraud, waste, or abuse of position, we issue a report to City Council and the public.

The Auditor’s Office has had a tip line since 2010, but we revamped its purpose last year to focus on fraud. We posted flyers in City work spaces and featured a link to the online reporting system on my website. The higher profile resulted in several tips, and we published the results of our first completed investigation Feb. 19, 2020. Find the report here

The investigation found that Portland Parks & Recreation mismanaged the work of a retired municipal golf courses director who it rehired for additional work. We found the retired director worked nearly double the hours allowed by a written agreement that governed his “working retirement.” The additional work caused extra payments totaling more than $25,000.

We also found there wasn’t a justification to rehire the director as a working retiree, that planned work either wasn’t completed or was done poorly, and that the retiree had no supervision.

There were also a host of rules violations. No one approved the retired director’s timesheets. Human resources rules were broken by placing the retiree and new director into the same position without a justification. The retiree worked offsite without approval, and likely broke City technology use rules by using his City email account to send more than 100 emails to Craigslist vendors for what appeared to be personal business.

My office made six recommendations to Portland Parks & Recreation to prevent this waste from happening again. The Bureau did not agree to undertake all of them.

We are grateful to tipsters who use the Fraud Hotline to notify us of possible wrongdoing. If you know of fraud, waste, or abuse of position in the City of Portland or with its contractors, make sure we do too, because the best way to call it out is to call it in. Visit www.PortlandFraudHotline.com or call 866-342-4148 to make a confidential tip.

City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero