City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero on Friday released the results of her office's investigation of a tip to the fraud hotline.
Hull Caballero's staff found that in at least 85 instances, staff from Portland Parks & Recreation's park rangers program used a city procurement card to buy food. A check of 10 of those purchases showed that they lacked proper documentation. The biggest dollar amounts: As Good As It Gets Catering ($1,093) and Thai Peacock restaurant ($623).
"There was no indication that any of these purchases were for anything other than personal use," the investigation report says.
Although the amount of money involved in the fraud hotline report is small, the parks bureau, as previously reported by WW, has long suffered from poor financial management.
The other finding in the new report detailed an improper purchase by a parks staffer.
"In December of 2018, a manager used a city procurement card to buy a $113 hat that was not part of the standard uniform," says the report. (There is no photo of what the hat looks like.)
"The bureau should work with the chief procurement officer's staff and accounting personnel to provide training to all procurement card users related to allowed purchases, proper documentation, and consequences for policy violations," the report concluded. "The bureau accountant who reviews purchases should report quarterly on bureau food purchases to the bureau director."
In its response to the report, the parks bureau pledged to do a better job of monitoring employee spending, including "requiring pre-approval for food purchases, and [it] instituted an in-person training for new card holders."
Updated June 5: Portland Parks & Recreation spokesman Mark Ross says the bureau disputes the findings in the report.
"In addition to the Auditor's investigation, a City HR Business Partner and a PP&R team also did an internal investigation. That investigation discovered that most food purchases were appropriate and were for things like extended team trainings," Ross said.
He also defended the purchase of the ranger hat.
"The purchase was appropriate," Ross said. "The hat was purchased as a prototype for the Ranger uniform to match industry standards for Ranger identification purposes. It is now a standard, official uniform option that is being phased into the Ranger program. The criteria described in the Auditor's report referenced a union agreement for represented staff. The prototype purchase was made by a non-represented supervisor who is not bound by the same criteria."
But Elizabeth Pape, a performance auditor who investigated the allegations is firm.
"The food purchases we highlighted were clearly in violation of City rules. Those rules are in place for reason; to ensure the efficient use of City funds for public benefit," Pape said in an email, adding that she also doesn't believe the purchased of the hat was appropriate. "The hat was not, and is still not a part of the standard uniform."