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Portland Auditor seeks charter safeguards to protect integrity of independent audits & investiga

Changes would place investigative divisions in City Charter and ensure the Auditor’s Office is independent from bureaus it holds accountable on behalf of Portlanders

From Robert Cowan on behalf of Mary Hull Caballero Wednesday, November 30, 2016 9:48 AM

Auditor May Hull Caballero today 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,” Hull Caballero said. “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 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.

Contacts: Mary Hull Caballero (503) 823-4078, Margie Sollinger (503) 823-4503

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