Mayor, City Admin Announce CHHS Process Review

Brian Coddington, 509.625.6740

Friday, February 28, 2020 at 1:30 p.m.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and City Administrator Wes Crago announced today that the city has self-reported questions about its work with the community organizations that operate public and human services to the State Auditor’s Office and requested assistance with fact-finding and a review of its processes.

Community, Housing, and Human Services staff raised questions related to work convened and overseen by the city department. The questions focus on process, including how processes are implemented, followed, and improved.

“Staff did the right thing by asking questions about how closely and consistently processes governing the city’s work with partner organizations were followed,” Woodward said. “As a result, I have assigned the city administrator to do further fact-finding and review and engage third-party resources as necessary.”

The questions have been specific to funding and partnerships managed by CHHS, Crago said. The city contacted the State Auditor’s Office to report the questions, seek guidance about how best to engage a third-party to gather additional information, review what is found, and make recommendations about any improvements that might be needed. Current partner contracts and funding remain active and in place.

Preliminarily, the city is seeking answers to three fundamental questions. The third party reviewer will be asked to expand that scope if the information and review requires it. The questions are:

  • Were polices, practices, and processes followed in evaluating requests and awarding resources?
  • Were there instances that lacked financial accountability?
  • Was there inappropriate pressure, either real or perceived, put on staff in making decisions?

“Those recommendations will be shared with the City Council and the community,” Crago said. “Anything that goes above and beyond the steps we have already taken will be implemented.”

Based on an initial city review, CHHS has taken immediate steps to ensure internal processes and controls are clear, consistent, and applied. Those steps have standardized the workflow processes in CHHS.

That includes an initial review of policies and practices for gaps and a recommitment to a process that includes:

  • Directing partners and potential partners to the CHHS technical assistance resource
  • Utilizing the standard guidance and application available online
  • Seeking CHHS board review and recommendation of new requests
  • Documenting requests for emergency applications and conducting a formal review to avoid conflicts of interest, either perceived or real
  • Enhancing processes as identified and training around the improvements

CHHS has also enlisted the help of the city’s Project Management Office to start on a continuous improvement process to further strengthen best practices.

“We have a lot of work to do and it is critically important that we keep the focus on the people we serve, even if it means asking some tough questions of ourselves,” Woodward said. “The questions and fact-finding we are doing will improve our ability to deliver better results moving forward.”