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Achieving Honesty, Efficient Management and Full Accountability Throughout City Government Susan Cohen, City Auditor


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2007 Reports

Neighborhood Plan Implementation
September 19, 2007

Focus: At the request of City Councilmember Sally Clark, the Office of City Auditor reviewed the City’s implementation of neighborhood plans to determine to what extent the City mobilized its resources to make neighborhood plan implementation a high priority effort after the adoption of the plans in 1999, whether the plans were out of date, and to distill the lessons learned from the planning and implementation process to inform decisions about where to go next.

Results: The neighborhood planning process resulted in many tangible projects. Our sample analysis indicated the City accomplished many of the plans’ recommendations. In addition, we identified:

Significant findings included:

  • Positive “side-effects” of the City’s neighborhood planning and implementation processes;

  • Factors that stood out as contributors to the success of the neighborhood planning and implementation effort, and/or the perception of success on the part of plan participants;

  • Some areas where perceived progress has been slow or non-existent;

  • Recurrent critiques of certain elements of the City’s neighborhood planning and implementation process;

  • Suggestions for improvement if the City should decide to update the plans or initiate a new neighborhood planning effort.

Because of the amount of change in many neighborhoods in the last eight years, we recommend the City revisit the neighborhood plans to respond to changed conditions and identify additional recommendations that might be accomplished.

Review of Millennium Digital Media's Compliance with the City of Seattle's Cable Customer Bill of Rights
August 21, 2007

Focus: To determine the extent to which Millennium Digital Media (MDM) adhered to the City of Seattle’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights (CCBOR).

Results: We found that MDM fully complied with seventeen of fifty CCBOR requirements, partially complied with ten, and did not comply with one. MDM has corrective action plans in place to ensure compliance with four requirements. Because MDM recently closed its Seattle area customer call center and moved to a regional Customer Call Center located out-of-state, we rated their compliance for eight requirements “in transition.” We were unable to determine if MDM complied with three requirements because MDM was unable to provide us with sufficient data. We could not determine MDM’s compliance with seven requirements because either there was no reasonable way to make a determination of compliance or non-compliance, or no activity had occurred in the area to allow us to conduct testing.

Seattle Indigent Public Defense Services
August 6, 2007

Focus: City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Richard McIver requested this audit to determine whether changes in Seattle's public defense system in 2005 affected the quality of Seattle's public defense services. The City is required to provide indigent public defenses services for qualifying individuals charged with misdemeanors in the Seattle Municipal Court.

Results: We analyzed 19 areas that could affect the quality of public defense and found that the City could improve service quality or program oversight in 17 of the 19 areas.

Significant findings included:

  • Approximately one third of the current Primary Defender's attorneys exceeded the City's annual attorney caseload standard of 380 cases.
  • We identified instances in which each public defense agency could not adhere to contract provisions related to attorney-client contacts.
  • The City achieved full compliance with four of the American Bar Association's Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System and partial compliance with the six other principles.
  • City oversight of public defense agencies could be improved.
  • The City could improve data collection for assessing the quality of public defense.
  • The City would benefit from having a larger secondary public defense agency.

We made 36 recommendations to improve the quality of public defense including:

  • Process improvements
  • Oversight improvements
  • Improvements in data collection to assess the quality of public defense
  • Revisions to contract provisions

Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Seattle's Code Enforcement
June 1, 2007


Focus: Evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the Code Enforcement unit of the Department of Planning and Development, focusing on enforcement of three codes: the Land Use Code, the Housing and Building Maintenance Code, and the Weeds and Vegetation Ordinance.

Results: We found that the Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD’s) enforcement of Housing and Land Use Code violations is generally adequate. Enforcement could be improved by:

  1. fine-tuning the electronic case management system
  2. improving the system for documenting conditions that apply to particular properties
  3. engaging all units of DPD in responsibility for code enforcement.

The improvements suggested for the information systems that support the inspection and property-research functions would resolve many of the issues we identified in our review.

Read the Report Highlights

Project Controls for the Fire and Emergency Response Levy Program
April 13, 2007

Focus: To assess project controls being developed by the Fleets and Facilities Department to track the schedule, cost and change orders of Fire Levy projects; assess FFD’s overall document management and record keeping systems; and provide recommendations regarding improvements if determined to be appropriate.

Results: The Office of City Auditor makes recommendations for improvements to contract development, schedule management, budget management, reporting, and document management.

Parks Public Involvement Audit - Phase 2: Case Study of Loyal Heights Playfield Renovation
April 12, 2007

Focus: To examine the chronology and issues related to a recent Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) project at the Loyal Heights Playfield as the second phase of a two-part audit of Parks' public involvement practices.

Results: We found that Parks complied with the elements of their public involvement policy. However, we found a number of issues with the manner in which these steps were followed that adversely affected the public involvement process at Loyal Heights. These included administrative errors, poor facilitation, lack of clarity, and opportunities lost. We identified seven lessons learned from the Loyal Heights case study. We collaborated with Parks to develop an action plan with measures for improving Parks public involvement. We also suggested that the Executive and City Council rethink the process for reconsidering Parks’ decisions, encouraging development of a process that is predictable and more transparent to citizens.

Appendix A: A One-Page Summary of the Loyal Heights Playfield Renovation Public Involvement Chronology

Loyal Heights Playfield Renovation Public Involvement Chronology - with web-links to supporting documentation

Seattle Public Utilities Billing & Accounts Receivable - Drainage Fees
February 8, 2007

Focus: To evaluate billing and accounts receivable policies, procedures, and operations for SPU Drainage fees, and test compliance with key related internal controls.

Results: In 2005, SPU received $31.6 million in Drainage fee revenues. Overall, we found internal controls were adequate for the billing and accounts receivable policies, procedures, and operations for SPU Drainage fees. However, delinquent Drainage accounts are not properly tracked, researched, and pursued. These delinquent accounts currently amount to about $1.5 million. We also found issues with the accuracy of the property characteristics data in SPU’s Drainage database, and these issues could be affecting Drainage fee revenues. In addition, we concluded that SPU may wish to re-evaluate whether to continue outsourcing Drainage billing and administration functions or to bring them in-house. SPU currently outsources many of the Drainage billing and administration functions to King County.

Read Report Highlights

Office of City Auditor Work Program as of 1/12/07

Our overall goal in developing the office’s work program is to choose projects that will help City departments improve services, inspire useful innovations, and increase City revenues and/or reduce the City’s costs.

Seattle Municipal Court Accounts Receivable and Revenue Recovery, January 4, 2007

Focus: To evaluate SMC’s accounts receivable and revenue recovery policies, procedures, and operations for fines related to parking violations, and traffic and nontraffic infractions, and test compliance with key related internal controls.

Results: In 2005, SMC received about $17 million in revenues from fines for parking violations, and traffic and non-traffic infractions. Overall, we found that SMC has adequate controls over accounts receivable management and revenue recovery functions, and SMC personnel generally comply with control procedures. However, SMC policies cause operational inefficiencies, result in ineffective use of staff resources, and allow citizens to take advantage of policies to delay payment of fines and/or referral to collections. In addition, our audit results indicated a high percentage of citizens do not pay fines in a timely manner, which results in late fee penalties and the eventual referral to collections.

Report Highlights