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The City of Portland, Oregon

Auditor Mary Hull Caballero

Promoting open and accountable government

Auditors take Environmental Services results on the road

Stormwater management examplesOur reports are geared to general audiences, but some well-informed community members may want more of the nuts and bolts. If you’ve found yourself wishing you could ask us whether we considered something you’ve been thinking about, we can come to your community meeting to offer an in-person briefing.

Two recent examples were the Development Review Advisory Committee and the Portland Utility Board. Last week they took the opportunity to grill us about our audit on Bureau of Environmental Services programs for stormwater management on private property.

The Bureau of Environmental Services relies on private property owners to manage stormwater that runs off roofs and pavement yet has not adequately tracked their systems or assessed the overall benefits.

The City Auditor found that the Bureau of Environmental Services’ data about private stormwater management were not adequate for system planning. The Bureau also had not evaluated whether programs related to private stormwater management met goals for volume of stormwater managed or for rate fairness. Without evaluations, the Bureau could not show that the benefits of private stormwater management exceeded costs imposed on the private sector and could not adjust program elements to optimize efficiency.

Members of the Development Review Advisory Committee provide advice to City bureaus about the development review process. We thought that the committee might be interested in our finding about thresholds in the Stormwater Management Manual that trigger requirements associated with new development.

The Portland Utility Board is a community oversight body for the management of the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Portland Water Bureau. We thought the board might be interested in our finding about the Clean River Rewards discount program. The Board tied our finding to its broader work related to providing financial assistance for low income ratepayers.

To view the full audit report visit:

If your community organization is interested in an in-person briefing about any of our audits, we’d love to come out and speak with you. Visit the Audit Services Division website for contact information and audit topics.

-- Elizabeth Pape, Senior Management Auditor

Effect of short-term rentals on housing crisis unknown

 Despite concerns about the effect of short-term rentals on housing availability and affordability, the City of Portland does not collect data needed to regulate these rentals and monitor the housing market.

Since the City began regulating short-term rentals in 2014, the number has more than doubled. The intent of regulations was that homes should be used primarily for residential rather than commercial purposes, but the City’s current approach cannot assure this. Most hosts do not obtain the required permits: only an estimated 22 percent of properties are permitted, and the City rarely enforces its regulations.

City bureaus’ ability to enforce the regulations is limited by the lack of data about short-term rental activity, including listings and their hosts, and how often and for how long listings are rented. Of approximately 15 booking agents active in Portland, none regularly provide data to the City. The Auditor’s Office used information gathered by a third party to provide an overview of Portland’s short-term rental market. Visual representations of this data can be found on the City Auditor’s website.

To effectively regulate the short-term rental market, the audit recommends the Bureau of Development Services and Revenue Division obtain data on hosts, listings, and occupancy from booking agents or from other publicly available sources. The Housing Bureau should use this data to monitor the effect of short-term rentals on the housing market.

Responses to the audit from Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Eudaly, Bureau of Development Services, Housing Bureau and the Office of Management and Finance are included in the report. 

Report Link:

We're hiring! Apply by July 16

We're hiring! graphicThe City Auditor's Office is recruiting applicants for two positions: Business Operations Manager and Management Analyst. The deadline to apply is July 16, 2018.

The Business Operations Manager will be instrumental in implementing recent Charter changes that made the Auditor administratively independent of the Mayor, City Council, and City bureaus. The Business Operations Manager will oversee the Auditor’s newly authorized powers that pertain to human resources, procurement, and budgeting; is responsible for ensuring compliance with federal and state laws and the Auditor’s administrative rules; and must protect the independence of the Auditor’s Office.

The Business Operations Manager supervises Auditor’s Office staff responsible for budget, finance, accounting, timekeeping, procurement, human resources and other administrative services. The Manager also supervises the Elections Officer and staff responsible for the Lobbyist and Political Consultant Registration programs. It is anticipated the Manager will assume broader supervisory responsibilities in the future. Apply here:   


The Auditor's Independent Police Review is recruiting applicants for a Management Analyst. Responsibilities for this position include analyzing, maintaining, and reporting trend and other data related to police misconduct complaints and commendations. The Management Analyst provides quantitative analyses that form the basis of policy reviews and recommendations made by the Auditor's Office to improve policing in Portland. The Management Analyst also prepares regular internal and external reports, ensures data integrity in the case management system, and assists with the development of dashboards.

Experience with data visualization and innovative reporting techniques, writing SQL queries, policy analysis, or performance measurement is preferred by not required. Apply here:


The Auditor’s Office promotes open and accountable government by conducting independent and impartial audits and investigations and providing access to public information. It employs 52 full-time equivalent staff who work in eight divisions in three locations. 

The Auditor’s Office values a diverse workforce and seeks ways to foster a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion in delivering public services and everyday interactions in the workplace. The Auditor encourages candidates with experience working with a broad range of individuals and diverse communities to apply.

Remembering Robert Cowan

Robert Cowan

Auditor's Office staff joined with family and friends of our colleague, Robert Cowan, to celebrate a life well-lived. Robert worked in the Auditor's Office for 29 of the 31 years he was employed by the City of Portland. He died on Memorial Day of complications from pancreatic cancer. Our condolences are with Robert's spouse, Sherman Bucher, and Robert's extended family.

Robert, 61, joined Audit Services in 1989 after short stints in other City departments starting in 1987. Prior to coming to the City, he worked as a U.S. Navy public affairs specialist/journalist for four years with assignments in print, broadcasting and public information in Australia and Hawaii. He also spent time in the trust banking field and ran a part-time administrative and design consulting business for three years. Robert worked with staff in Audit Services to produce reports for publication and coordinate media and public information requests.

Robert was honored by family, friends, and colleagues at a memorial service June 19, 2018, followed by interment at Willamette National Cemetery. Find photos of the service here:


City should set priorities for arts and culture, improve contract oversight

The City should ensure that the work of the Regional Arts and Culture Council is aligned with City priorities and improve oversight of its $8.3 million contract with the not-for-profit organization, according to an audit my office released on Tuesday.

The City has contracted with the Arts Council for more than 20 years. The Arts Council is a regional organization, and its responsibilities include strategic planning and policy development for arts and culture. The Arts Council administers grants and arts education programs and is the steward of the City’s public art collection.

In 2017, the City provided the Arts Council with $8.3 million, more than 70 percent of the Arts Council’s budget. The City’s current contract with the Arts Council expires in June 2018, and City staff are considering changes to it.

Auditors found that risks exist because the City does not have clear goals for arts and culture, the Arts Council needs to articulate its strategy and regional role, and the City’s contract and oversight of it needs improvement.

We discussed our audit in a work session with City Council and the Arts Council’s interim Director, Jeff Hawthorne on Tuesday.