At Portland City Hall, life is "incoherent"

The Portland city auditor, Mary Hull Caballero, has released a pretty scathing audit report about the city's fire department. Here's her executive summary.

Portland Fire and Rescue has not shown the same commitment to creating and sustaining an accountable, professional workplace as it has to preparing its firefighters to respond to emergencies, according to an audit released today by City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero.

The Fire Bureau has more than 700 employees, most of whom are male and white. The bureau says it wants to diversify and recently took some steps to do so. A 2018 workplace study, however, found that some women and people of color feel alienated in the white-male-dominated environment. It also found that the bureau’s family-like culture allows some employees to behave unprofessionally in the workplace. The audit assessed the bureau’s complaint, investigation, and disciplinary processes for employee conduct.  

“The Fire Bureau has set laudable goals but will struggle to meet them without a transparent and credible employee accountability system,” Hull Caballero said. “Firefighters of color, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ+ have earned their place in the Bureau. Portland risks losing their continued service if their workplace is viewed as one of favoritism rather than fairness.”  

The audit found that the bureau had not invested the time, attention, and resources needed to improve its culture and achieve its goal to diversify. It did not have a coherent employee accountability system, had not offered recommended training on interpersonal communication and conflict resolution, or ensured that employees attended the City’s mandatory training on prohibited conduct. The Bureau also had not established clear and well-communicated processes for filing complaints, conducting investigations, and imposing discipline that employees trust.

One more thing gone wrong under the supervision of Commissioner Jo Ann "With the Bullhorn" Hardesty. She's not available for comment; she was out of town yesterday. One can only wonder where, and doing what. 

Maybe if they put some traffic cones around the firehouses, things would improve.


  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t firemen have one job? To save life and property? You can try and make it touchy-feely if that is your goal, but it is a fool’s errand. When a house is on fire and I am in it I could care less if it is a “diverse and equitable” squad that responds.

    1. Yeah, that "one job" is a team effort. If you have a divisive and dysfunctional team, it's not as effective. It's about mutual respect, not making things touchy-feely.


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