Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This June, my team and I had many opportunities to learn directly from community members about how they experience joy in our county, and about the ways in which people struggle to access county resources and opportunities to live prosperous, authentic lives.
Learning from people who are directly affected by issues is critical to all of the accountability work my office does. Meeting people where they are at - literally and figuratively - and actively listening make it possible for my team to tell you how well county programs are operating. This work advances by centering community voices for meaningful change.
We are wrapping up several audits right now that will bring you provider and staff perspectives on the Joint Office of Homeless Services, insights into the county’s annual budget process, and important information about the Library’s work environment. I am pleased to report that the Board of County Commissioners approved my budget request for the fiscal year that starts July 1, so my team and I will be able to continue the accountability work we do on your behalf.
With this newsletter, my team and I have put together information on our recent community engagement activities. And I am excited to introduce you to Cheryl Taylor, our new county ombudsperson!
Multnomah County Auditor
We honor Juneteenth and Pride Month to celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments and history of African Americans and the LGBTQ+ community. On June 16, College to County (C2C) Communications and Engagement Intern Gelsi Tuz attended Race Talks: Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism event, which featured Black Drag Artists Tawanda Jackson, Rose Empress T'Kara Campell Starr, Rose Emperor Arcadian Campbell Starr, Kourtni Capree Duv, and Epiphany Dm Valentine, sharing personal stories and the importance of educating and resourcing the community about their progress and the ongoing fight for equity and inclusion. It was a time for open, transparent, and vulnerable conversations on class, white privilege, how to support individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, remembering impactful events, such as the Stonewall Uprising, and fostering a sense of community among African Americans and LBGTQ+ communities in Oregon.
We also recognize the 50th Delta Park Powwow as an extraordinary celebration of Native American culture and heritage. Constituent Relations and DEI Engagement Specialist Raymond De Silva represented our office at this significant annual event, which brought together indigenous communities representing over 100 nations from across the country to honor their traditions and showcase their vibrant culture. Generations gathered, with elders passing down stories to the young ones and teaching their ancestral dances. My office continues to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diverse indigenous cultures and perspectives that represent our community.
On June 19, we remembered the resilience and determination for freedom and equality. Through the non-profit Word is Bond’s Juneteenth Albina and Cully Neighborhood Walking Tours, Mical Yohanes, Caroline Zavitkovski, Raymond De Silva, intern Gelsi Tuz, and I learned about the struggles and successes in local African American history.
This walking tour was guided by a collective of Black community members who shared their stories and cultural insights. As we strolled through the Lower Albina and Cully neighborhoods, we stepped into past memories and locations of once-thriving African American communities and learned about the challenges they faced in their fight for racial justice and social change. Through this time together, we were reminded of the importance of listening, lamenting, and learning local stories in Multnomah County, ensuring that we remain engaged with past and present times to shape our community-centered understanding of history and social progress.
If you’d like me and or staff to attend or speak at a meeting with your community group, simply fill out this form.
Ethical Culture Survey Results
Near the end of 2022, the Auditor’s Office sent our third ethical culture survey to all county employees. Thank you to all who took the survey. Reporting to you on the survey results is a way our office strives to elevate employee voices and validate employee concerns. The report on the survey results is now available.
We found that the county’s ethical culture aligns with ethical expectations. However, there are still areas in need of improvement. Some of our key findings from the survey show that many employees don’t trust that management holds higher-level employees accountable, are concerned about a lack of transparency and inconsistency in the complaint process, and that the lack of consistent accountability from managers may worsen racial inequity. The themes we identified about a lack of management accountability and a lack of transparency and inconsistency in the complaint process relate to longstanding issues.
We urge management to use this report to learn about employees’ continuing concerns and to improve the county’s culture. Similarly, we hope employees can use the survey results to help push for positive change.
My office hopes to present the report results to employee resource groups, work groups, divisions, and select departments. If you’d like a presentation, you can request a presentation through this online form.
Welcoming Cheryl Taylor
In May, I welcomed Cheryl Taylor to the Auditor’s Office as Multnomah County’s first Ombudsperson. She comes to the county after many years in the legal profession in a variety of roles including paralegal, operations manager, and attorney.
Cheryl has a bachelor’s degree in history from Willamette University as well as a J.D. and certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Willamette University College of Law. Prior to pursuing higher education, she worked as an ombudsman for both the Oregon Department of Transportation and the governor’s office. Her experience conducting investigations is complemented by her skills in meditation, negotiation, and creative problem solving.
Cheryl is an enrolled tribal member and has a passion for volunteer work benefiting the Indigenous community in Portland and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. She enjoys collecting and playing vinyl records, gardening, and time spent in nature with her rescue dog.