In February, UpDoNA was contacted by the office of Denver’s City Auditor to request a meeting in order to explain the purpose of the City Auditor position and the activities that are planned. On March 2, 2022, Lisa Pope and Rob Squire of the Safety & Quality of Life Committee met with Timothy O’Brien who is the City Auditor along with Jeff Garcia and Sara del Alle Ruiz.
The City Auditor is one of four positions that are elected by Denver voters. The others are Mayor, Clerk and Recorder, and City Council members. The purpose of the position is to serve as a check and balance on the other areas of Denver government. He is completely independent of all other citywide elected officials, and city management.
Mr. O’Brien indicated that he is a licensed CPA and a Chartered Financial Analyst. He summed up the position of City Auditor by saying that “Where the money goes, the auditor goes”. That is a significant effort, since Denver’s General Fund is over $1.5 billion.
He has several audits in work and the entire 2022 Audit Plan can be found by clicking on this link: https://denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Auditors-Office/Audit-Services/2022-Audit-Plan
The committee found one planned audit particularly interesting. Mr. O’Brien plans to audit Denver’s oversight of encampments including program costs and encampment cleanup costs. According to Westword magazine, homeless advocacy groups called for the audit, and they hope that it will result in halting the cleanups and allocating the money to housing.
Here is a link to the Westword article:
The committee pointed out to Mr. O’Brien that significant funds are expended each year to house and care for the homeless community. However, the cleanup costs that are targeted for this audit represent the much smaller portion of the money that is expended specifically for the purpose of mitigating the effects of homelessness on Denver’s residential and business community. The committee suggested that it would be a more balanced and meaningful audit if the number was presented in context of overall costs incurred by the city on overall homelessness-related issues rather than a standalone number.
In a related matter, the Denver Post published an article two days after the meeting which indicated that the City Auditor had filed suit against the City Council. The Council has introduced legislation to remove the Auditor’s subpoena powers. This occurred after public sparring between them regarding a planned audit of City Council operations.