2014 Reports

Each report entry contains a summary of report focus and results, a full report document and a report highlights document.

Click the report titles to expand and contract this information for each title.

December 22, 2014

Seattle Department of Transportation Bonds Management Audit

This audit was conducted in response to concerns expressed by the City Council and the City Budget Office in early 2013 about the Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) large cumulative unspent bond proceeds from bond issuances dating back to 2008 (e.g., $113.8 million unspent by the end of 2011).  The City Council was also interested in whether SDOT's unspent bond balances could be readily shifted to fund transportation projects to help reduce the City's transportation maintenance backlog.

SDOT's unexpectedly large bond balances resulted from several factors including the timing of the City's borrowing, delays in spending of bond proceeds because SDOT's project schedules were dependent on partner agencies completing work before SDOT could proceed, lower bids on projects due to the economic recession, and several City Council actions that increased SDOT's bond proceeds to fund Bridging the Gap transportation projects.  The latter included re-purposing bond funds from non-SDOT projects to SDOT projects.

If some of the borrowing had been deferred, bond balances would have been smaller, but this would have merely shifted some of the City's annual borrowing and debt service out into the future.  In doing so, the City would have taken the risk that bond rates would increase, even though bond rates during that period ultimately declined and then remained low much longer than anticipated.  Interest earned on unspent bond proceeds partially offset annual debt service. 

Although SDOT's unspent bond proceeds could be shifted to other eligible projects, this process can be lengthy.

Better communication between SDOT, the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, the City Budget Office, and the City Council to clarify why SDOT was not able to spend its bond proceeds as quickly as planned could have diffused the concerns.  Clarifying roles and formalizing and improving the City's policies and procedures for bond planning and spending of bond proceeds would contribute to improved communications between the entries involved in the City's bond process.

November 10, 2014

What Works in Policing? A Review of the Research Evidence and Seattle Police Department Case Study

This interactive web tool describes the current research on what is effective in policing, provides a baseline measure (as of March 2014) for how the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is incorporating this research in its practices, and includes brief descriptions of SPD's work in each of the research areas.  This web tool was developed through a collaboration of the Office of City Auditor with SPD and researchers from George Mason University and Arizona State University.

We hope this web tool will be useful to SPD, its stakeholders, and other governmental agencies in thinking about how best to incorporate findings from rigorous research into public safety practices.

October 24, 2014

Supporting a Future Evaluation of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI)

Focus: At the request of the Seattle City Council, our office contracted with the evaluation firm, MEF Associates, to conduct an evaluability assessment of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) to determine whether it is ready for an evaluation of its effectiveness.

Results: The report from MEF identified some strengths of SYVPI but concluded that due to a number of issues with the design and implementation of SYVPI, a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of SYVPI from 2009 through present is not possible. The report outlines a series of steps that SYVPI could take to get ready for an evaluation at some point in the future. In addition, our office has outlined in an attached memo five specific things that the Executive and City Council could do to support a future evaluation of SYVPI:

  1. Ensure that SYVPI has clear goals,
  2. Support a youth violence needs assessment,
  3. Monitor progress of the SYVPI risk assessment tool,
  4. Ensure that SYVPI has an adequate data system, and
  5. Require SYVPI management to report regularly to the Executive and City Council on its evaluation readiness.

The Executive’s attached response to the MEF report indicates that SYVPI plans to address the evaluation planning steps outlined by MEF.  However, SYVPI cannot be expected to ready itself for a rigorous evaluation without significant support from the Executive and City Council.

October 17, 2014

Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Enforcement Audit

Focus: This audit was conducted in response to the Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance (123698), which called for our office to audit the Seattle Office for Civil Rights’ (SOCR) enforcement of the Ordinance.

Results: During the first 16 months of the enforcement of the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, SOCR primarily used a non-adversarial advisory letter process to enforce the Ordinance, which focused on businesses achieving compliance rather than SOCR conducting formal investigations or imposing sanctions. Although the process may have corrected businesses’ future practices, it did not always hold them accountable for past practices. We identified issues with the advisory letter process and question its extensive use as a long term enforcement strategy.

June 6, 2014

Seattle City Light Salvage Unit Fraud Risk Audit

Focus: The Seattle City Council requested this audit because of an alleged employee theft of over $1 million of customer payments from a secondary revenue stream at Seattle Public Utilities.  The City Council wanted to ensure that appropriate controls were also in place over the secondary revenue streams at Seattle City Light (SCL), because these types of revenues have generally received less attention and scrutiny than the two utilities' primary revenue streams.  Through a risk assessment process, we determined that SCL's Salvage Unit should be chosen as a secondary revenue stream for audit.  We hired the firm Francis and Company to perform most of the audit work, with our office performing additional work.  The audit's primary objectives were to 1) establish through testing of transactions whether (a) past surplus sales were made in accordance with established policies and procedures, (b) sales were appropriately priced, (c) receipts were deposited in a timely manner, and (d) any assets were misappropriated; and 2) identify any weaknesses in the current internal control structure and make recommendations for improvement.

Results: Based on their agreed-upon procedures work, Francis and Company verified that all proceeds from SCL surplus sales tested for the period 2007-2011 were accounted for.  However, we have concerns about the Salvage Unit's ability to provide adequate safeguards over surplus yard assets. Accordingly, we developed several recommendations to improve internal controls over the safeguarding of those assets.

May 28, 2014

Union Waivers of Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Time Regulations

Focus: To determine in what ways unions representing employees working in Seattle responded to the opportunity to waive the City's Paid Sick and Safe Time regulations through collective bargaining.

Results: Of 56 unions we contacted that represent employees eligible for the City's Paid Sick and Safe Time regulations, 19 did not waive the requirements, 22 waived the requirements, and 15 unions that have multiple contracts waived the requirements in some cases and not others.

May 22, 2014

Research on Police Chief Search and Selection Process

Focus: To identify: 1) practices related to police chief selection, confirmation, employment contracts, and re-confirmation in cities similar to Seattle; and 2) any recommended best practices in these areas from academics or professional organizations with expertise in policing and police accountability and professionalism.

Results: We surveyed 12 jurisdictions similar in size and policing environment to the City of Seattle (total sample of 13).  We found that: 1) all the police chiefs in these 13 cities are appointed by either the Mayor or City Manager; 2) 5 cities have a process for confirming these appointments and the remaining 8 do not; 3) none of the cities has a reconfirmation process in place; 4) only 3 cities have employment contracts with their police chiefs, and 5) 12 of the 13 police chiefs serve at will and do not have term limits on their service.

To identify best practices, we interviewed officials from the Police Executive Research Forum, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the cities of Baltimore, MD; Bridgeport, CT; Denver, CO; and Nashville, TN.  We obtained opinions from these officials on the advantages and disadvantages of reconfirmation, term limits, and employment contracts and factors that contribute to a successful police chief selection process.

May 20, 2014

City of Seattle RFP Process for Vehicle Impound Management Services

Focus:  To determine whether: 1) the recent bid process for police impound services complied with State of Washington and City of Seattle laws; 2) the City obtained the technologies it desired; 3) opportunities for women and minority owned businesses (WMBE) increased or decreased under the new contract; and 4) retrieval storage lots meet requirements for location and accessibility.

Results:  We found that:

  1. The City complied with State and City laws related to public procurement, towing, and impounds in conducting the Request for Proposal (RFP) and contract award processes.
  2. The City was successful in obtaining the new technologies it desired.
  3. The percentage of impounds and storage days provided by WMBE firms has decreased under the new contract.
  4. Two of the contractor's 3 storage and release lots comply with the contract requirements.  We question whether the south end lot is easily accessible to a public transit route.

April 30, 2014

Status Report on Implementation of Office of City Auditor Recommendations as of December 2013

Focus:  To report on the implementation status as of December 2013 of 350 recommendations from audit reports issued by our office from January 2007 through December 2013. 

Results:  As of December 2013, 67 percent (234 out of 350) were implemented, 23 percent (82 out of 350) were pending, and 10 percent (34 out of 350) did not warrant further follow-up. 

April 29, 2014

Assessment of Consolidated Customer Service System (CCSS) Transaction Controls Policies and Procedures

Focus: We conducted an audit of the internal controls over customer account transactions for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL).  We reviewed the applicable policies and procedures to determine if the internal controls in place were adequate to prevent and/or detect inappropriate utility account transactions.  We also conducted data mining to review utility account transactions. 

Results: Overall, we found that current controls over utility account transactions are adequate, and that SPU and SCL have taken several actions in the last two years to strengthen these controls.  However, we also noted several areas requiring further strengthening of controls, including several related to improving SPU and SCL's procedures for monitoring for inappropriate transactions with the use of exception reporting.

April 22, 2014

Implementation and Early Outcomes of the City of Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

Focus: The Office of City Auditor contracted with the University of Washington to conduct an evaluation of the impacts of the City's Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance on employers and employees.

Results: After the Ordinance was in effect for one year, the evaluation determined that the majority of employers (96%) are offering some paid leave to full time employees, with 62% also offering leave to their part time employees. However, 39% of employers either do not cover full- and part-time employees as required by the law, and/or do not offer as many hours as the law requires. Employers reported that implementation difficulties were frustrating but transient. The cost of providing leave was tracked by very few employers, but those reporting cited costs of less than half a percent of gross revenues, with far less usage than anticipated. Seventy percent of employers said they support the ordinance and view paid leave as a valuable and important benefit for their workers.  Interviews with a small group of employees indicate that employees appreciate having a "safety net" that allows them to take time off to care for themselves or their sick family members.  However, there are many employees who still do not have access to the benefit, especially those working for employers with 250 or more employees.

April 8, 2014

Research on How Similar Cities Operate Their District Election Systems

Focus: To conduct research on six cities that elect some or all councilmembers by district, in preparation for Seattle to transition to a district election system. We contacted each of the six cities and asked them 16 questions developed by the interdepartmental team for district elections.

Results: We received written responses from five city council offices and one executive office. We found that most of the cities do not organize legislative or executive functions by election district, and are instead organized by city function or issue. We also found that city council offices operated similar to Seattle, with few district distinctions.

April 2, 2014

Operational, Management and Efficiency Analysis of the Seattle Transportation Department - Recommendations for Phase II


The Seattle City Council adopted a resolution (31393) in July 2012 directing an interdepartmental team, that included a representative from the Office of City Auditor, to hire a consultant to assess the Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) organizational structure and operations. The consultant's September 3, 2013 report represented the completion of Phase I of this project. The City Council resolution also called for a Phase II to follow up on areas identified in Phase I for further analysis.


An April 2, 2014 memo summarizes the recommendations of the interdepartmental team's recommendations to SDOT for Phase II, which were to: 1) conduct a one-time condition survey of non-arterial streets throughout the City; and 2) fully develop and host a web-based, interactive communication tool ("dashboard") on which the department's most critical outcome-based performance measures are summarized and easily accessible. SDOT agreed with these recommendations, and the Seattle City Council approved funding to support implementing these recommendations.