When the taxpayers are getting hosed

There aren't many Portland city agencies that I think much of, but one I actually like is the city auditor's office. These folks are charged with keeping an eye on the rest of the bureaucracy, and they actually know something about money. To be elected city auditor, you have to be a certified public accountant. One of the great things about the office is that they get to call b.s. on the politicians when necessary, which in this town is often.

A couple of items have recently crossed the desk here at Blog Central relating to the auditor's office. The first is that at least a two-way race is shaping up to succeed the current auditor, Mary Hull Caballero, who will be stepping down after seven years on the job. 

The first candidate, who filed with the city’s elections office in December, is Simone Rede, who has worked as a senior management auditor at Metro and prior to that was a staff auditor with the state of Oregon. She previously worked in some of Portland’s alternative schools as an advocate for continuing education....

The second candidate, who has not yet formally filed with the city, is Brian Setzler, a certified public accountant who previously worked as an auditor for two international accounting firms, and also worked for Washington state in its revenue department. He’s a board member for Livelihood NW, a nonprofit that helps minority business owners grow their businesses.

I see some red flags on both of those paragraphs. Metro? The nonprofit industrial complex? Oops and more oops. Further research on those two is clearly warranted.

Meanwhile, on a more comedic note, the current auditor's crew has been playing a spirited round of "Who Had the Pickle?" in light of the earth-shaking, shocking revelation that Portland firefighters use city water to wash their personal pickups. Thanks to a hot tip to the fraud hotline!

Though managers may view this use of City water to wash personal vehicles as insignificant, the Bureau must uphold its responsibility to enforce City rules and consider other aspects of this type of violation, including:

Public perception: A member of the public was concerned enough about the misuse of City resources to report it. The Bureau risks appearing indifferent to legitimate compliance issues by trivializing them. It also risks the appearance of using a double standard to assess conduct, because it is unlikely the Bureau would ignore a community member who attempted to wash a personal vehicle at a fire station.

Multiplier effect: Any single instance of washing a vehicle may seem insubstantial, but it has the potential to be a widespread practice among hundreds of employees if condoned by managers. This appears to be happening at the Fire Bureau.

Wow. Maybe the changing of the guard in the auditor's office is coming at an appropriate time.