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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of the Ombudsman

A division of the Portland City Auditor's Office

phone: 503-823-0144

email: ombudsman@portlandoregon.gov

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 310, Portland, OR 97204

Fire & Rescue

Year

Problem

Resolution

2018

Fire conducted a drill on a resident’s private property. The drill alarmed the resident, who had not given permission or received advance notice. 

The Ombudsman communicated to Fire that it needed to ask permission before conducting drills on private property. Fire agreed. 

2018

A Fire arson investigator was reported to have pulled over drivers on multiple occasions, both for arson-related investigations and also for traffic stops unrelated to any investigation. 

The Ombudsman raised safety concerns and questioned the legality of armed members of Fire acting like police officers, particularly outside the context of arson investigations. Fire established and later refined a policy prohibiting fire investigators from initiating a traffic stop except under extraordinary circumstances.

2015

A City employee requested records of an investigation into the conduct of a high level Portland Fire & Rescue manager accused of misconduct. Although the Fire Bureau had already provided the same records to the media, it refused to turn them over to the employee.

The Ombudsman suggested the employee petition the District Attorney’s Office to overturn the bureau's decision because it was contrary to law. On appeal, the District Attorney rejected the bureau's arguments for keeping the documents secret and ordered it to turn them over. 

2012

 

In response to a campaign advertisement during the 2012 primary season, the Ombudsman initiated an investigation into whether certain Portland Fire & Rescue employees violated any restrictions pertaining to public employee political activity. Two residents reported similar concerns to the Auditor’s Office during the general election season. 

In the course of conducting the investigation, the Ombudsman observed a lack of clarity and consistency among the various political activity restrictions that may apply to City employees. Based on the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the Bureau of Human Resources amended Administrative Rule 4. 6 to track the more stringent Federal Hatch Act political activity restrictions and to prohibit non-elected City employees from using their official authority or influence while engaged in political activity.

The Ombudsman also works with the Auditor’s Elections Officer and the City Attorney’s Office to distribute a City-wide memorandum in advance each general election, which reminds employees of political activity restrictions and reporting obligations for suspected violations.