Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This month I also had the pleasure of speaking with students in a core ethics class in PSU’s Masters of Public Administration program. I was impressed by the students’ questions about the kinds of ethical issues my office deals with, how promoting ethical behavior goes hand-in-hand with supporting equity, and how public and nonprofit employees can identify and mitigate any pressures to be unethical as they strive to serve the public good.
That heartening conversation was timely for me because, as part of our office’s continuing professional education program, we recently viewed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and discussed the serious ethical missteps that contributed to that corporation’s collapse. While Enron was a corporation and not a local government, its fall holds important lessons for all who care about integrity in public service.
The Enron example shows what can happen when people choose to ignore multiple red flags and blindly trust those in power, abdicating responsibility and ignoring their own ethical compasses. It shows how hard it can be to bring wrongdoers with power to account, and also reminds us of the bravery it takes to blow the whistle. Engaging in ongoing learning about ethics helps my office maintain our resolve to raise questions and help ensure government accountability.
In addition to supporting accountable government through audits and hotline investigations, we regularly ask county employees what they think about the county’s ethical culture. We use this information to help select work environments we need to audit and to report back to all employees on what is positive, and what is not, about the environment in which we serve the public. This month, we sent employees a survey about the county’s ethical culture, and next year we will report to them - and to you - about what we find out.
Multnomah County Auditor
In the middle of the month, I was grateful to attend part of an event put on by the Employees of Color and PRISM Employee Resource Groups to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. All of us in Multnomah County live on unceded Indigenous land, and Multnomah County is home to the ninth-largest urban Indian population in the United States. The Native American Heritage Month event was an important way to honor local Indigenous elders, learn about the ongoing work of Indigenous people to secure civil rights and sustain their complex cultures, and engage joyfully with each other by celebrating the many contributions Indigenous people make to our community.
Over the holiday period, my office had an opportunity of reciprocity and solidarity with the land and Native community as volunteers participated in the Wapas Nah Nee Shaku Unthanksgiving Garden event at the Native American Youth and Family Center’s (NAYA) garden in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 24 - 25, 2022. Hundreds were given space to connect with the land and people, as many mourned genocide and celebrated the resiliency of the diverse Native American and Indigenous people and communities. We continue to reground ourselves by building relationships and remembering one another.
If you’d like me and or staff to attend or speak at a meeting with your community group, simply fill out this form.
Welcoming Sura Sumareh
In November, I welcome Sura Sumareh to the Auditor’s Office as a management auditor. He previously interned as part of a cohort in the College to County (C2C) Mentorship Program from fall earlier this year.
Sura has two associate degrees and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance (expected in December 2022). He has an extensive background in peace negotiation, conflict resolution, international development, non-profit management, community outreach and engagement, budget development and analysis, and project management. Sura is the current president of The Gambian Community in Southwest Washington and Oregon.
Fun fact: Sura enjoys cooking, weight lifting, hiking, DJing, and sewing.