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Portland Auditor Looks At Recruiting Practices

The City of Portland Auditing Office turns its eye toward the city of Portland's hiring practices.  A report Wednesday found about a quarter of city jobs are open only to city officials.  That means they don't face outside competition.

As Andrew Theen reports, some are concerned that temporary employees are getting advantages at the expense of outside candidates.

At face value it seems obvious.  If you work in any job under a short-term basis and do well, your chances for future employment increase.  That could be applied to any industry.

But Portland, which calls itself "the city that works"  considers that it has an open city government. And about a quarter of jobs over the past four years were filled with people already in-house.

Drummond Kahn is the Director of Audit Services for the City of Portland.  He acknowledges that hiring a known commodity often saves time on projects and is ultimately the correct decision.  But Kahn says the nature of hiring for civic service is to "cast a wide net."   He says better candidates may be left in the cold.

Drummond Kahn: "If a temp does a terrific job for you, we see no reason why an open recruitment to the public might still not find that that temporary person did a terrific job.  But comparing city hiring to businesses can be a little bit concerning.  Businesses may not be bound by the same competitive and civil service rules that government is."

Art Ayre is an  employment economist for the state.  He says at face value the number of temporary employees who are now permanent seems a bit high.   He says temp agencies have surged statewide over the past four years.  He says that has upsides for both  employers and workers.

Art Ayre: "They are able to make a determination about whether or not a person is likely to be a good permanent employee without having the commitment that would be there if they went through just an interview process and made a determination based solely on that interview process."

Drummond Kahn with the City Auditor's office says about 5 percent of city officials never faced any competition for their job.

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