Hales "Open" to Independent Investigations of Whistleblower Complaints

Auditor says city employees need more protections

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales tells WW he's "open to the idea of an independent office" to investigate whistleblower complaints by city employees.

Two whistleblower cases about mishandling of money in the Office of Management and Finance this year contributed to Hales' decision Wednesday to fire the city's finance chief, Jack D. Graham.

City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade has said increased whistleblower protections will be a priority of her last year in office. She tells WW she will soon seek an independent process to handle whistleblower complaints. (City employees currently report misdeeds to the city's Human Resources department, which sends its findings to the elected officials in charge of bureaus.)

Griffin-Valade says two controversies over transferring utility ratepayer dollars between bureaus show whistleblowers need new protections. But she says those changes will have to wait until City Ombudsman Margie Sollinger returns from maternity leave.

"Both cases highlight the need for a robust whistleblower protection policy for the City and a mechanism for independent investigations of such allegations," Griffin-Valade says. "In the interim, I will continue to press the matter with individual Council members."

Hales says he'll listen.

"I'm open to the idea of an independent office," Hales says, "but I want to know more about how it would work and how it would differ from what the city has now. I'm interested in the auditor making her case."