Two Choices For A Eugene Auditor Measure In Next Week's Primary
Eugene voters are considering two competing performance auditor proposals on the May 15th ballot. Measure 20-283 would establish an elected auditor. Measure 20-287 is for an auditor who’s appointed by the City Council.
The City already conducts regular financial audits. A performance auditor looks at more than the books and finds ways to maximize public dollars. Elected versus appointed is not the only contrast between the two auditor proposals. 20-283 sets a 700-thousand dollar annual budget. The auditor’s salary would be 70 percent of the average of the Eugene and Salem City Managers and the EWEB General Manager – over 100-thousand dollars a year. Bonnie Bettman McCornack with Elected Auditor For City Accountability says this will attract the most qualified candidates.
McCornack: “This is a real job with professional qualifications attached to it. So the auditor needs to be on par with department heads whose budgets they’re scrutinizing, whose activities and public expenditures they’re scrutinizing.”
But supporters of Measure 20-287, including Josh Skov, say the measure is too expensive with an office budget at around 700-thousand dollars.
Skov: “The auditor would be one of the highest paid politicians in the state, making more than the Attorney General, more than the Secretary of State, more than the Governor. And in fact, the Portland elected auditor, often cited as a model here, makes only 2/3s as much as this position.”
The appointed auditor measure, 20-287, would establish a budget of about 200-thousand dollars for the auditor’s office with a citizen review board. This gives pause to former state auditor Gary Blackmer who says the panel would have too much oversight.
Blackmer: “There’s a real potential there for them to A, interfere with the professional decisions of the auditor or the professional abilities of the auditor. But they’re also getting in the way of getting an audit done in a timely way.” Blackmer-timely
Blackmer consulted with the crafters of measure 20-283, the elected auditor proposal. He says he’s never been an appointed auditor and he thinks that would make it hard to be effective. Blackmer says an elected auditor is more nimble.
Blackmer: “People in government respect candidates who’ve been elected and they tend to listen a little more because they know that this candidate has gone out and talked to the public and listened to their concerns and also represents the public.”
But backers of measure 20-287, the appointed one, say making the auditor an elected position would make them beholden to funders. Again Josh Skov:
Skov: “This person would have to campaign. They would have to raise campaign funds. And that means this person would be no more or less independent than any other politician.”
The other issue between the two measures is a residency requirement. Measure 20-283 doesn’t require the auditor reside in Eugene. Whereas measure 20-287 does.
The City Council measure came in response to the elected auditor measure. Rob Zako with Citizens for Sensible Oversight, was one of its proponents.
Zako: “There’s just too many fatal flaws. I cannot vote for that. I also don’t want to vote against an auditor because I support an auditor. So our group came together and said, we need a third way.”
But backers of Measure 20-283 say the real goal of 20-287 is to kill both proposals. Again Bonny McCornack.
McCornack: “Political pundits would tell you that when you have two measures on the ballot they’re both likely to fail.”
If both measures fail it’s unclear whether either side will try again. The other question is what if both pass? Measure 20-287 includes a note on that. If both get a majority of yes votes, the one with more yeses wins. The deadline to vote in the primary election is May 15th.
Wednesday is the last day to mail in a ballot and ensure it arrives at County elections offices on time. Voters can deliver ballots to drop sites until 8 p.m. Tuesday.