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The Portland City Commissioner said the audit of the embattled bureau should be released before Thursday's vote on next year's budget.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Commissioner Mingus MappsPortland Commissioner Mingus Mapps is calling on the city to release the contested third-party audit of the Office of Community & Civic Life before the Thursday, May 13, vote on next year's budget.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt ordered Portland officials to release the audit of the embattled bureau on Tuesday, May 11. Schmidt said the office was not exempt from disclosure because of attorney-client privilege as the Portland City Attorney's Office had claimed. A former office employee and three news organizations had appealed the denial of their public records requests to Schmidt's office. One of them was Oregon Public Broadcasting, which has reported extensively on the bureau's problems.

"The city has not met its burden of showing that the primary purpose, or even a substantial purpose, of this document is the facilitation of legal services. All indicators show it to be business, management, personnel, and public relations advice intended to guide the transformation of a struggling office. Such advice, and the fact finding underlying it, is not exempt from disclosure regardless of what label is placed on it," Schmidt wrote.

The city of Portland has seven days to decide whether to fight the ruling in the court system. The City Attorney's Office told the Portland Tribune it had not made a decision by Wednesday, May 12.

The audit began last year after numerous employees complained about personnel problems to the Bureau of Human Resources and City Ombudsman Margie Sollinger. The complaints ranged from bullying to unethical hiring and contracting processes, harassing and retaliatory behaviors, the inability of leadership to resolve problems, and a high rate of turnovers. The audit was conducted by the ASCETA consulting firm and completed in March.

Mapps told the Portland Tribune the audit should be released before the council votes on Mayor Ted Wheeler's proposed budget on Thursday. Mapps had worked for the office before defeating Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who had been in charge of it, at the November 2020 election. The office is now overseen by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

"I am very concerned that I have not seen the ASCETA report on the state of the Office of Community & Civic Life, especially being an elected official poised to vote on the Mayor's Proposed Budget. If the memo by the City Auditor's office and subsequent reporting by OPB are remotely accurate regarding abuse of employees, we need to know about it prior to voting on OCCL's budget. Budget aside, we as a City have an obligation to the public and to our employees to be transparent and accountable in our actions. The District Attorney has instructed the City to release the document and I believe we need to comply. I don't think it is the City's or public interest to appeal that decision," Mapps said in a May 12 email.

A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be found here.

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