City Council in recent years asked voters to approve taxes and bonds to pay expenses related to arts education, cannabis regulation, affordable housing, and street repair. Each time the City asked voters to approve more revenue, it promised certain steps would be taken to ensure the funds were spent as intended.
Over the course of four audits of voter-approved spending, we noticed a trend that the City was not meeting its accountability promises, even when the use of the funding generally met expectations. Some examples:
• Clear language: The City committed to use revenue from a cannabis tax to fund drug and alcohol treatment, public safety, and small business support. Nearly 80 percent of the revenue went to public safety, and in one year, drug and alcohol treatment received no funds.
• Oversight committees: The City promised voters that a committee would be convened to monitor gas-tax spending, but did not give the group current, consistent, and accurate information from which to provide meaningful oversight.
• Annual reports: The City promised annual public reports, which implies the release of a report each year. There was no report for cannabis, and those for the housing bond and gas tax were late.
• Annual audits: Despite its promises, the City only delivered a review of the housing bond.
• Administrative caps: After voters approved the arts tax, the City declared the promised cap on administrative expenses was unrealistic, and City Council repealed it.
The latest audit recommends that before measures are referred to the ballot, City Council should ensure that accountability promises are specific, feasible, measurable, and achievable. It should also specify a position or body responsible for making sure they are implemented.
--Performance Auditor III Jenny Scott
View the four recent audits referred to in the report:
Auditors are known for being bookish, and we love reading and writing reports. But we also love the chance to talk in person to Portlanders about the topics we all care passionately about. We’ve been having a lot of fun getting out into the community to share the results of our most recent police overtime audit. On November 19, 2019, we discussed the audit with the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing.
We reported that police overtime was high by historical standards: nearly 250,000 extra hours at a cost of $15.7 million. But the costs of overtime were not just financial. Long hours lead to more accidents, more injuries, and burnout. Secondary employment, which is off-duty police work arranged through contracts, also taxed a system that relied on overtime to meet minimum staffing needs. The program had a low profile and inconsistent procedures despite significant risks. We recommended that the Bureau improve overtime data collection and reporting. We also recommended that the Bureau change the contract approval process for off-duty work and report publicly about customers, hours worked, and finances.
In person, we had a chance to answer questions and also to listen to concerns from the committee and other members of the general public. We talked more about the context behind some of our wonky recommendations to improve data collection and reporting. We also heard which findings really resonated with the public and the things they most wanted the Police Bureau to improve. One member commented that it was incredible that sergeants didn’t have access to reports about how much overtime officers were working. Another member noted that one of the committee’s priorities was accountability and that overtime was an area that needed more accountability.
View the presentation and discussion at the meeting of the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing at this link.
Read the Police Overtime audit.
Invite us to discuss our audits in person. We’ll present the Police Overtime audit at the Bureau's Training Advisory Council meeting on January 8, 2020. For more information about this event, see this link.
--Elizabeth Pape, Performance Auditor II
Apply online by Friday, Oct. 25:
The City Auditor's Office is seeking a quick-thinking, detailed-oriented public servant with good judgment to coordinate investigations of police misconduct allegations and make case-handling decisions in the Independent Police Review division.
Independent Police Review (IPR) is the civilian side of the City's police accountability system. IPR reports to the elected City Auditor, who is independent of the Mayor and City Commissioners. This structure is critical to ensure that police misconduct complaints receive the appropriate investigative resources before the Chief and Police Commissioner make their final decisions about an officer's conduct or cases are closed for insufficient evidence. With 16 staff positions, it is the largest division in the Auditor's Office.
IPR is the central intake location for police misconduct complaints, conducts investigations, and monitors all cases investigated by the Police Bureau's Internal Affairs unit. IPR and Internal Affairs share investigative responsibilities. IPR generally investigates misconduct complaints involving high-ranking officers; vulnerable populations, such as children or people experiencing homelessness; and large events, such as street protests. IPR uses complaint trends as the basis for policy reviews of the Police Bureau and makes recommendations for systemic change.
Responsibilities of the Investigations Coordinator include:
- Supervising a lead investigator and seven staff investigators;
- Ensuring consistency in investigations;
- Participating in investigative planning by ensuring timely progression of cases through the process;
- Reviewing information gathered during the intake phase to make case-handling decisions, such as referrals for further investigation or closure;
- Reviewing investigative files for completeness and findings for accuracy and appropriateness;
- Conferring with the IPR Director and Deputy Director about high-risk or sensitive cases; and
- Monitoring investigations conducted by Internal Affairs, including officer-involved shootings.
Apply online by August 23!
The City Auditor's Office is seeking an impartial public servant to listen to community members who believe an interaction with a Portland Police Officer was improper, develop facts related to their allegations, and recommend to Police Bureau officials whether disciplinary action is warranted.
This Complaint Investigator position is one of eight in the Auditor's Independent Police Review (IPR) division, which forms the foundation of the City's civilian police accountability system. IPR reports to the elected City Auditor, who is independent of the Mayor and City Commissioners. This structure is critical to ensuring that police misconduct complaints receive the appropriate investigative resources before the Chief and Police Commissioner make their final decisions about an officer's conduct or cases are closed for insufficient evidence.
IPR is the central intake location for misconduct complaints. IPR conducts investigations and monitors all cases investigated by the Police Bureau's Internal Affairs unit. IPR and Internal Affairs share investigative responsibilities. IPR generally investigates misconduct complaints involving high-ranking officers; vulnerable populations, such as children or people experiencing homelessness; and large events, such as street protests.
Responsibilities of the Complaint Investigator I include...Keep reading!
Portland City Council did not fulfill some commitments it made when it asked voters to approve a local gas tax to fund the Fixing our Streets Program, according to an audit released May 19, 2019.
Portland voters narrowly approved a temporary gas tax in May 2016 to fund a Bureau of Transportation program dedicated to street repair and traffic safety. Council passed a separate tax on heavy vehicles to help ensure that all vehicle owners funded the program.
Two years into the program, we assessed how the Bureau is delivering on the Fixing our Streets program and accountability commitments. While projects were consistent with those promised to voters, most were behind the schedules that the Bureau set after the tax passed. Tax revenues from heavy vehicle owners were below the amount that experts said was needed to fund their share of the program. Many of the other accountability commitments were not fulfilled.
The audit recommends the Bureau make changes to improve program oversight and meet public expectations. Responses from Commissioner Eudaly and the Bureau of Transportation are included in the report.
--Performance Auditor III Jennifer Scott