A new focus on a fraud hotline has paid dividends for the Portland city auditor's office.
A caller tipped the auditor's office to a cozy arrangement for John Zoller, the former longtime director of the city's troubled golf program.
Zoller retired in 2018, after 31 years in charge of the city's five golf courses, which a 2019 city of Portland audit found were bleeding cash.
The golf program, which has about a $10 million budget, is supposed to pay for itself from user fees but in 2017, it had required a $800,000 bailout from the city's general fund to stay solvent.
"Rounds of golf played at Parks courses are down six percent over the last five years and 46 percent over the last 25 years," the 2019 audit found. "The long-term viability of the golf program is in question."
After his retirement, Zoller came back to work on what was supposed to be a limited assignment through December 2018. Instead, an auditor found, he worked without supervision until October 2019, earning a total of $52,702, nearly double the $26,684 he was supposed to be paid for the post-retirement project.
"The working retirement lacked justification," an auditor's report on Zoller's post-retirement assignment stated. "The retiree did not have a supervisor and had sole discretion over what to record as hours worked." (Zoller could not be reached for comment.)
A WW cover story last year found that Portland Parks and Recreation has deep-rooted financial problems of its own.
In a response to the new report on Zoller, Parks & Rec pledged to obey city rules in the future—although the report noted the bureau resisted recommendations that it tighten procedures on retirees coming back to work.
"The bureau did not agree to require director approval for appointments to working retirements or double-fill positions," the report noted. "It also did not agree to document working retirements with formal offer letters or to add working retirees to organizational charts."