Revised Elected Auditor Measure Fails with City Council

City Council voted 'no' on a revised elected auditor measure for November's ballot

Although both the elected and appointed auditor measures were rejected by Eugene residents in the May election, discussion for another potential measure was brewing at the Eugene City Council — though as of now, it won’t be on this upcoming November’s ballot.

At the City Council’s Monday, July 9, meeting Councilor Betty Taylor put forth a motion asking to place a revised elected auditor measure on this upcoming ballot. That motion failed in a vote of 2-6 with only Taylor and Councilor Emily Semple supporting it.

Taylor said that the revised elected auditor measure addressed the main critiques of the original measure that failed back in May.

“People had objections to mainly three things,” Taylor said. “Salary, the lack of a citizens’ committee and residency.”

This new proposal laid out a lower salary of “at least four-fifths of the salary of a state circuit court judge,” the allowance for the auditor to have the “authority to create a Citizen Advisory Committee” and the necessity of residence within Lane County.

Councilors who opposed the motion said the revised measure still had too many flaws.

“It says ‘at least’ which means that’s the minimal amount and it could be more than that,” Councilor Chris Pryor said of the proposed auditor’s salary. Pryor also said other parts of the proposed measure were too flexible such as the elected auditor’s ability to be able to hire “independent professionals to assist the auditor’s office” with the City Council providing funding.

“That’s a blank check,” Pryor said. “That means that the auditor can hire any independent professionals as they define independent professionals and the city is required to pay for them.”

He added of the proposed Citizen Advisory Committee: “It’s not a review committee and it’s not an oversight committee; it’s an advisory committee — that means it gives advice. ‘We look at stuff and we give you recommendations and we give you advice. You don’t have to follow it. You don’t have to do anything with it.’”

Pryor also said that the auditor has the authority to create the committee, but is not required to due to the language in the proposed measure.

Taylor said the discussion should not be based on whether or not councilors like the measure; it should be up to the public.

“We’re not voting on whether or not this should pass tonight,” Taylor said. “Give the public a chance to vote on it.”

Many councilors who voted against the proposal argued they felt as if it was too rushed.

“We just saw this a couple of days ago,” Councilor Alan Zelenka said of the revised measure, “and there are still a lot of problems with it.”

Mayor Lucy Vinis had similar thoughts.

“I’m supportive of this endeavor,” Vinis said of the discussion of a potential city auditor. “I am concerned that there is not enough time for council to have a thoughtful deliberation and for the community to have a thoughtful deliberation.”

However, Semple, the only other ‘yes’ vote for the motion other than Taylor, pointed out the hypocrisy in calling this revised measure “rushed” in comparison to the alternate measure, for an appointed auditor, that the council moved to get onto the May ballot along with the elected one.

“I think this is pretty interesting that we rushed pretty fast to get the alternative measure on the ballot last time and now there’s not enough time to talk about it,” Semple said.

Semple also commented on the time of year of the election and the fact that primary elections usually have a lower turnout.

“I think you get a bigger turnout in November than May,” Semple said. “So this would be a fairer test.”

Using a similar argument, some councilors opposing the motion said the 2020 election would be a better time for another measure of this nature given the longer timeline and since that year is a presidential election which already brings a larger turnout.