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The Mayor's surprising question

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During a meeting last week to discuss the Auditor’s Office budget, Mayor Hales posed a question: What is the relevancy of the Ombudsman’s Office?

2014 Ombudsman Annual Report

The question surprised me because of the essential role the Ombudsman plays in promoting transparent and accountable government.

It was the Ombudsman who helped develop evidence that led to the indictment and guilty plea of a former employee who was taking bribes related to a parking meter contract. It was the Ombudsman who exposed the inequity of charging people more than $1,300 for an impartial hearing when they felt wronged by a City action. It was the Ombudsman who brought to justice a company that was defrauding the City’s social equity in a contracting program. And it was the Ombudsman who pointed out that members of a stakeholder advisory board needed to disclose any conflicts of interest before Council considered their recommendations.

Others in the City knew of these incidents and occurrences, but it was the Ombudsman who acted. The Auditor’s Office is the only function in City government whose sole responsibility is to hold the City accountable.

There is no more important contribution to transparent and accountable government than eliminating fraud, inequity, injustice and conflicts-of-interest. That, Mayor Hales, is why the Ombudsman’s Office is relevant and cost-effective. It’s also why I added staff to help sort out the hundreds of complaints it receives each year. There's more information in the 2014 annual report (click on cover) and the 2015 report will be out soon.

-- Mary Hull Caballero