Portland’s independent city auditor is calling into question purchases made by the city’s park rangers.
Among them, $623 spent on a large order of Thai food from Thai Peacock, $1,093 on a catered meal from As Good As It Gets Catering, and a wide-brim hat to the tune of $113.
Following up on a tip, the city auditor's office released a report Friday accusing the city's park rangers of misusing their procurement cards, which function as credit cards for employees' work-related purchases. According to the report, rangers pushed the boundaries of what could be considered a business purchase, spending city money on multiple large lunches and one pricey hat.
Employees are able to use their cards for food under two circumstances, according to city auditors: lunchtime meetings where city employees comprise no more than half of attendees and meetings that last more than four hours.
Of the 85 food purchases rangers made between 2016 and 2019, city auditors reviewed 10 of them. “None of the transactions were appropriate,” according to a memo sent by the audit services division to Adena Long, the director of the parks bureau.
While reviewing the purchases, auditors also stumbled upon the purchase made by the bureau's security and emergency manager, Vicente Harrison, of a $113 hat in December 2018.
What did that hat look like? City auditors are on the case.
“Photos from the news media indicate that prior to December 2018 he wore a hat like the other rangers, but in January 2019, he wore a hat that was different from those of the other rangers,” read the memo.
In an email, Elizabeth Pape, the lead investigator, said she wasn't sure exactly what the hat looked like, but believes it resembled the one documented in a KATU news report from January 2019: a handsome wide-brim hat with a brown strap.
The auditors took issue with the hat as they say it was not part of the ranger uniform when it was purchased, which includes a black baseball cap branded with the park ranger logo.
But the parks bureau said they had no problem with the purchase. Community relations manager Tim Collier said, after Harrison purchased the hat, it was adapted into the ranger’s official uniform. He said it looks a lot like the hat worn by Smokey Bear.
In a statement responding to the audit, the parks bureau said they did their own investigation following the city auditor’s report. They said they are reviewing offering refresher trainings for card holders. They also noted they’ve been requiring pre-approval for food purchases since April 2018 and have always offered in-person trainings for new card holders.
City employees in all bureaus are warned to be cautious when using these purchasing cards, also known as “P-cards.” According to city policy, which auditors quote in their memo to the bureau, employees are recommended to abide by the following protocol:
“Before making a purchase with a City of Portland P-Card, every Cardholder should ask: 'How will this purchase look if it is reported on the front page of a newspaper?'”