DENVER (KDVR) — The City and County of Denver’s auditor found some areas where a fairly new city office can improve. Not everyone is happy about the audit report.
Mayor Michael Hancock issued a letter taking issue with how the problems were described in the report. The leader of the city’s Office of Social Equity and Innovation said she does not disagree with everything the report found; it is the characterization she takes issue with.
Denver Auditor Timothy O’Brien said his office found that the social equity office lacks details of a program design and a plan to utilize resources.
“I think we had a very good characterization of the Office of Social Equity and Innovation,” O’Brien said. “I stand by the audit. It was fair.”
Hancock does not think so, saying in a letter released after the audit report came out that “the overall value is marred by an incomplete description of the history and evolution of the city’s equity work, glaring omissions of equity work-in-action, and other errors suggesting that this audit was undertaken in haste.”
“If the organization wants us to audit their accomplishments they need to produce a report, have documentation to support those accomplishments, then we can audit that and say we think it’s a good, bad or indifferent,” O’Brien said.
The accomplishments he is referring to are the office’s work in helping to handle the city’s response to protest after the killing of George Floyd, the 2020 elections and COVID-19.
“Those are all important things that need to be done but what we are looking at is: What are those fundamental, organizational, infrastructure things that need to be done? They weren’t there, they weren’t documented. And I think we are in a good position going forward because they agree,” O’Brien said.
Denver equity office sees leadership turnover, vacancies
The office got off the ground just as the pandemic was getting underway. Since then, two leaders have left. Their current leader, Dr. Aisha Rousseau, said the office has a staff of nine with three vacancies. She does not disagree with the findings that the office needs better planning but she said the agency has been doing critical work.
“When you think about the vaccination sites that rolled out, there was an entire team that was assigned to that. The former chief equity officer was the one leading that team,” Rousseau said. “This office is race-forward so we are primarily leading our work with race, but we are not race-exclusive. We are looking at other marginal populations, we are considering other social identities as well, so that’s why there is a need for an office like this.”
“There are areas on a very foundational level that we need to address. I don’t disagree with the auditor about his assessment of that. I just, simply, have concerns with how they were described and why they weren’t there,” Rousseau said.
O’Brien said his office will follow up with recommendations the equity office agreed to work on toward the end of the year, with a follow-up report that could come as soon as the beginning of next year.