Yes, there was a mistake, but no big deal
There is something humorous, but not nefarious, about the error the city of Gresham made when it created a city auditor's position seven years ago.
As reported in The Outlook today, the city established the auditor's job under the mistaken belief that Gresham voters had approved a City Charter amendment in 2004 requiring that an auditor be hired.
What the city failed to notice then - and continued not to recognize for the past seven years - was that a charter amendment in Gresham requires 60 percent voter approval. The measure creating the auditor's position received only 54 percent approval.
Nonetheless, the city hired an auditor, who reported directly to the City Council, at an eventual cost of more than $90,000 per year.
The irony here is that such a mistake should have been caught by someone whose job it is to make sure the rules are followed … perhaps someone like an auditor. But that bit of comedy aside, we don't believe anyone at the city willfully violated the law. It was simply a case of faulty institutional memories.
The 60 percent requirement was established in 1986 as a way of protecting the City Charter against short-lived whims and trends. Elected officials and voters have a tendency to react to immediate issues by passing laws that seem to address their concerns, but are approved without full regard to the longer-term consequences.
Overall, the super-majority requirement has proven over time to be a positive thing for Gresham. The 60 percent rule has prevented the city, for example, from having an anti-homosexual amendment inserted into its charter by the former Oregon Citizens Alliance in the early 1990s.
As for the auditor's job, we were never big fans of the idea putting this into the charter to start with. It is now up to the city manager and his bosses on the City Council to decide whether the position should remain. The auditor's job has been taken out from under the council and placed, with a different title, under regular city administration. The position's future existence can now be weighed against all other budget priorities that the city has - and that's the way city budgeting should work.
As a charter review committee prepares once again to look at the city charter for possible changes that would be sent to voters, our suggestion would be to leave the auditor out of the equation and to keep in mind that the super-majority rule has done more good than harm for Gresham.