Metros auditor should move on


Metro Auditor Alexis Dow's job should be to enhance the public's faith in government, not destroy it. Her behavior in office, however, is no model for building citizen trust.

As reported in the Feb. 17 Portland Tribune, Dow has flirted with ethical boundaries by accepting substantial compensation for an outside board position with a private company, by making generous use of her expense account and by treating her own elected job as a part-time occupation. Some of these activities appear to be in direct conflict with the Metro charter. Others are simply evidence of poor judgment.

In either case, it's time for Dow, after 11 years as Metro auditor, to pack up and leave office. If she has any respect for the office she holds, she should forgo a re-election campaign this year and allow a new auditor to take office next January.

Some people will blame Dow's troubles on her turbulent past relationship with the Metro Council, which too easily bristles under the scrutiny that an independent auditor brings. But the current criticism of Dow's performance has nothing to do with the council. Her peers Ñ including other public-agency auditors and former employees Ñ are openly questioning her ethical compass.

A primary example of potentially wayward behavior is Dow's acceptance of at least $35,000 to $50,000 in yearly compensation for her work as a board member for a private Longview timber company. The Metro charter specifically prohibits Dow from moonlighting, stating that the auditor 'works full time and may not be employed by any other person or entity while serving as auditor.'

Dow argues that serving on a board of directors doesn't legally constitute employment.

But Dow's office completed only three audits Ñ two of which were inconsequential Ñ in 2005. With an annual budget greater than $600,000, an auditor ought to accomplish more than that.

We have no doubt that Dow and her staff can point to worthwhile achievements in the past decade. But Dow's recent habits leave us Ñ and more importantly, the public Ñ with questions. Outside compensation? Short office hours? Not much to show for tax dollars spent? Such behavior fuels public disgust and mistrust.

And that's exactly the opposite of what an auditor is supposed to do.