Gresham auditor position null and void

City created the position in 2004 in error
by: Contributed photo Gresham's Julie Nieminski is no longer the city auditor after a flaw was found in the process of approving the position in 2004.

Gresham's city auditor, a position voters approved in 2004 to improve performance and ensure accountability in city government, was created in error.

Although 54 percent of voters approved creating the position, 60 percent approval was needed because it required an amendment to the city charter, said Robin Franzen Parker, a Gresham spokeswoman.

'It's not clear what happened or how that happened,' she said, adding that the two city employees overseeing the process - City Attorney Susan Bischoff and City Recorder Debbie Jermann - are no longer city employees.

The error was discovered last month by City Attorney David Ris as he began to convene a new city charter review committee. The committee reviews the city charter every eight years.

As soon as Ris noticed the problem, he notified Gresham City Manager Erik Kvarsten and Mayor Shane Bemis.

The position has been rendered 'null and void' because of the flawed process, Franzen Parer said.

That doesn't mean Gresham's city auditor Julie Nieminski is out of work. As of Aug. 24, her job title changed to chief compliance officer.

Instead of reporting to the City Council, she now reports to the city manager. Also, instead of performing audits and forwarding her recommendations to the council, she now can help carry out those recommendations, Franzen Parker said.

Her new job title also comes with a pay raise - from $95,256 a year as the city's auditor to $98,114 a year as its chief compliance officer.

'The duties of a Code Compliance Officer encompass a broader scope of work and involve multiple disciplines,' Franzen Parker said. 'For that reason, a modest 3 percent increase was given to compensate for the increased responsibility.'

The city's first city auditor, David Dean, worked for the city from May 2005 to July 2007, when he left for a position with the Washington Legislature. At the time of his departure, he was making $85,449 a year.

It will be up to Gresham's new charter review committee to decide how to handle the development, including whether the issue should be returned to voters. The committee's first meeting was Thursday, Sept. 22.