Government Waste Watch Report

Taxpayer Association of Oregon PO Box 23573 Portland OR 97281 (503) 603-9009

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$9 Million In Government Waste Reported In Just 100 Days!

Below are some examples of government waste that has been reported in the last 100 days from Nov.15th 2000 to Feb. 15th 2001.

School Funds to Second-guess Schools

Portland schools paid $8,900 in lawyer fees asking the Attorney General for a ruling regarding whether a for-profit business could operate a charter school when the answer is clearly spelled out in statute. Critics saw this challenge against legislative intent and national precedence as a delaying tactic against charter school advocates. (The Oregonian 01-10-01).

The $8 Million Fish

Construction of a Clackamas bridge has been stopped because of possible effects on the fish below. Authorities caught the county working in the creek when they had previously promised not to. The delay is estimated to cost taxpayers as much as $8 million. (The Oregonian 01-03-01).

Gresham's Christmas Trolley Falls Flat

Gresham helped fund $8,000 for a free holiday shuttle to lure shoppers out of their automobiles this Christmas and onto mass transit. The shuttle has been an abysmal failure averaging only 9 riders a day. Many of the 28 round trips a day were empty of passengers, adding rather than subtracting pollution. (The Oregonian 12-21-00).

Employee Windfalls?

l At Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, the faculty rebuked their president, Joel Vela, with an overwhelming vote of no confidence. The terrible ordeal somehow landed Mr. Vela with a new $9,000 a month job with the college as a consultant. This "job," which lasts just short of an entire year, is to look at the college budget and make recommendations. (The Oregonian 12-28-00).

l Portland School Board let go their deputy superintendent after seven months. She left with a $158,000 check, plus attorney fees, moving expenses and $10,000 towards her education fund.

Building Towards Debt

The new $31 million Deschutes County Fair is reeling in debt and financial problems. Taxpayers are expected to swallow $440,000 of the growing debt for a project that showed years of financial red flags.

In Portland, the city is bailing out the new Chinese Garden for the second time. The city will help the Garden's expanding debt with a $221,000 grant and $1.18 million dollar loan above the financial assistance already given. (The Oregonian 12-13-00).

All Fines, No Funds

The city of Bend is losing $100,000 a year in revenue from uncollected traffic fines. The total amount of uncollected fines is as much as $750,000. When Bend police catch these fine dodgers, they find that they ignore the new fines as well! (Bend Bulletin 01-16-01).

Outrageous Fines and Fees

l Pepsi Bottling Co. in Portland, was fined $3,755 for failing to meet the requirements of the Employee Commute Options rule. The rule violation was for not reducing the number of employees who drive vehicles to work. Other companies in Portland were also given similar fines (The Oregonian 11-28-00).

l A Southern Oregon business owner was slapped with a $4,100 System Development Charge for starting a small coffee stand. The owner was able to get these outrageous charges reduced after a review. (Medford Mail Tribune 11-20-00).

l Civil rights carry a big price tag in Forest Grove. To get any compensation for a governmental taking, the city of Forest Grove has set up a $1,250 application fee process.

 

Please Learn From Our Mistakes!

It may seem strange that our Waste Watch reports keep repeating similar waste horror stories committed by different governments within a short period of time. It is no conspiracy. It actually happens, and we can do better! We hope that public managers statewide are reading our reports to help break away from the cycle of taxpayer dollar abuse. Taxpayers and public servants work too hard to have their efforts undermined and undermined so often.

 

Audit uncovers frequent misuse of education funds at OSU

An state audit of Oregon State University found numerous examples of misspent money and poor oversight of credit cards, payroll and university property.

 

The audit found many problems with OSUís Foundation Funds which are, by contract, meant for scholarships, research grants and university equipment. It turns out that too often the Foundation funds went to parties, parties and more parties. Although Foundation funds are allowed to be spent on functions for guests, they are not meant for staff and students. $1,622 went for a staff retirement party which included $350 for alcohol. $1,000 went for food and alcohol for an open house at the deanís home. $11,000 was spent on flowers for various occasions. Only $2500 of the purchases appeared to be employee related.

 

More disturbing was that Foundation funds went for parties with no university-related reason. $1,191 was spent for a banquet with no explanation on why the function was held. $1,000 was spent for wineglasses with no university-related explanation. $12,700 was spent for country club memberships for staff. Another example of waste was $17,014 in overdraft charges.

 

100 Misspent Charges

OSU issued 327 credit cards to staff and students with about 30% of the cards rarely or never used. A small sample revealed over 100 examples of prohibited charges. One staff member charged over $800 for items from the Home Shopping Network (not to be confused with another public employee who bought $645 on the Home Shopping Channel last fall using the state travel card). In many instances, the OSU credit card holders were the user, approver and custodian. For students with the cards, user agreements were ignored and documentation is missing.

 

OSU appeared unconcerned with the whereabouts of millions of dollars of "high-risk" equipment such as laptop computers. A sample of 13 departments found only two departments were tracking such equipment. As a result, OSU equipment was finding itself in the wrong hands. Several former employees were able to keep using OSU computers up to four years after they left the campus. Science equipment and a laptop computer were being used by former employees who no longer resided in the country.

 

Employees Selling Property To Themselves

Surplus property found itself into the hands of employees. One sample showed almost half of OSU items were being sold to employees in charge of selling them. $8,000 of lab equipment went to a former faculty member who was involved in the original purchase of the lab equipment. The lab equipment was advertised for only one hour before being sold to the former faculty member. Even the auctioning process itself was compromised when the OSU manager of surplus property was selling off items through his privately owned auctioning business. The manager made $3,670 from 22 auctions. It is no surprise that the manager did not open the process to competitive bidding.

 

Poor Payroll Oversight

The OSU payroll office identified 134 over-payments in just six months. Total overpayments amounted to $146,695. Many of the overpayments were made to employees who were no longer working. OSU was slow in catching overpayments and slow in responding once they were noticed. The audit found dozens of examples of wide pay fluctuations without explanation. One included the questionable use of "stand-by" hours where an employee was paid in one month $3,716 for 173 normal hours and an additional $2,115 for 592 stand-by hours (source of entire audit: Oregon State Audit Dec.1-2000).

 

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Taxpayer Association of Oregon

PO Box 23573 Portland OR 97281

(503) 603-9009

www.OregonWatchdog.com