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News / Northwest

Surprise Longview resolution revealed: proposed audit of Assistant City Manager Ann Rivers

By Brennen Kauffman, The Daily News
Published: February 16, 2024, 12:50pm

LONGVIEW — The surprise resolution brought up at the end of the last Longview City Council meeting was an attempt to audit Ann Rivers’ role as the assistant city manager.

The resolution, which will now be considered during Thursday’s meeting, calls for an independent contractor to audit all work Rivers has done since becoming the assistant city manager in May. The auditor would have one month to review all the activity and provide a report to the council.

Councilman Keith Young, who wrote the measure and attempted to introduce it last week, said the measure was less of a financial audit than about making sure Rivers was managing the workloads of being a state Senator and a city department leader. Rivers represents the 18th Legislative District in Clark County.

“I feel like there’s enough public concern about whether or not she is able to keep up with her workload here with a reasonable amount of responsiveness,” Young said.

Young told The Daily News Wednesday the audit was not meant as a personal attack, but he had not talked to Rivers about the issue because he felt audits should be done on short notice.

Rivers said on Thursday she fully supported audits as a tool for government transparency. In this case, Rivers said she was unsure what the point of a performance-based audit would be.

“The people who know me best in and around City Hall know how I’ve poured my heart into making Longview better since I was blessed to be hired by the city; I expect that would show through in an audit,” Rivers said via email.

‘No surprise’ rule

Young mentioned the resolution in the last eight minutes of the Feb. 8 council meeting. When the city attorney said the resolution needed to have two signatures to be considered, Kalei LaFave signed it from her seat.

Young was eventually talked into not introducing the surprise motion by the city attorney because it would be legally dubious to vote on the issue without any public notice. The action also breaks the council’s self-established rules about surprise resolutions.

City Manager Kris Swanson did not see the resolution the night Young pulled the measure. Swanson said she only found out its contents when it was resubmitted on Tuesday. When she saw the measure, she met with Young and Mayor Spencer Boudreau to talk through how the audit would work and what Young wanted to get out of the process.

“Very few good decisions occur at the last minute with very little preparation or discussion. That is what created the ‘no surprise’ rule,” Swanson said.

The resolution calls on a provision in state law for city councils to “cause an audit to be made of any department or office.” Swanson said she and the city attorney were determining whether this allowed for the auditing of a single position, like assistant city manager. The resolution didn’t define what material would be covered or focused on.

Swanson said the meeting with Young was also an effort to establish a more transparent relationship with the council to avoid future surprises. In this case Swanson was willing to chalk up the breaches in council protocol to the “steep learning curve” of being a first-time elected official.