Former staffers blamed in OC fee-collection scandal
Employees disciplined after auditor report finds cause of loss
Investigation in Oregon Citys failure to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in development fees uncovered a series of former city supervisors who lacked initiative to enforce the increased charges, according to a newly-released auditors report.
Salem-based Local Government Personnel Institute looked into the errors at the request of City Manager David Frasher. The city last month denied requests by The Oregon City News and The Oregonian for public records associated with the investigation, but this week released the records after a citizens accountability group demanded the report.
On Tuesday, Frasher revealed that disciplinary actions had been taken for two of the three involved employees who still work for the city, while the third was still pending.
On the advice of legal counsel, I am not at liberty to share the details of why or why not any particular action was taken with respect to an individual employee, he said.
Meanwhile, the City Commission took steps this month to try to recover about $300,000 of the $800,000 that it didnt bill developers, and Frasher last month announced plans for future audits and reconciliation practices (City launches fee investigation after employee error, Jan. 23).
In April 2009, commissioners enacted a resolution that revised the fee schedule for Transportation System Development Charges. In December 2012, an employee in the Community Development Department discovered that a SDC fee schedule prepared for a customer did not seem in accordance with the revised schedule and notified a supervisor of the conflicting reports.
Tony Konkol, current director of the citys development department, described his predecessor Dan Drentlaw as a minimal communicator. Konkol also told auditor Craig Stoelk about a meeting regarding the convoluted issue of a new SDC fee schedule. Konkol, because he was a city planner at the time, did not recall discussing the issues directly.
According to the auditors report, Bob Cullison, manager of the citys development services department for the past 15 years, also described Drentlaws supervisory attitude as hands off and lacking in any real communication.
Drentlaw, now retired, told the auditor that Former City Manager Larry Patterson, who retired in March 2010, never gave him any information about implementing the increased fees. According to Drentlaw, information on implementing the new fees should have gone to Guy Sperb, who supervised the Building Department until his retirement in 2010.
Sperb told auditors that his subordinate and IT Coordinator Samanatha Vandagriff was the designated person in the department to use the EDEN system for updates and she coordinated that effort with Engineering Manager Bob Cullison. Sperb added in comments to Stoelk that information on new fees would just get to Vandagriff for updating, but ultimately the data should come from the department head in some memo format.
Vandagriff, who was the employee who discovered the discrepancy in December, told the auditor that she had assumed that Cullison had done the work. She also told Stoelk that no one had ever checked with her on her compliance to see if work was done properly.
It is evident that Ms. Vandagriff has failed to enter original changes into the EDEN system when implemented in 2009 and she has subsequently failed to enter updated information in consecutive years when Mr. Cullison has provided it, Stoelk said.
However, there was no evidence available to Stoelk to suggest that omission of critical information was committed intentionally.
Ms. Vandagriff is not alone in the failing of revising the SDC fees into the EDEN system, Stoelk wrote, her lack of performance was allowed in part by her past supervisors having a demonstrated pattern of failing to fulfill their role as managers.
Paterson was given final blame for the error in the auditors report.
Given the knowledge that the issue was confusing and that his department head was ineffectual, Mr. Patterson owed the city the assurance that in the transition, the new department head was properly informed and that a review of significant work was undertaken, Stoelk wrote.