Denver auditor will tackle homeless encampments, small business, City Council and Denver Police in 2023

“We know what matters most to the public we serve, and we are committed to completing diligent, independent audits,” said Auditor Tim O’Brien.
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Denver City Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien speaks to a reporter in his office, April 3, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver's elected government watchdog, Auditor Tim O'Brien, has announced his 2023 priorities.

In a mix of ongoing and new audits, his office will continue to look at homeless encampment management, construction at Denver International Airport's Great Hall, and child welfare placement.

"Additionally, affordable housing, city shelters, and residential permitting remain high priorities in the community and will remain on my plan going forward," O'Brien wrote.

His office will also dig into the Denver Police Department; voting system security; the Division of Small Business Opportunity's certification of businesses owned by women and people of color; the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; and more. The full list is here.

"It's important to stay the course and do our due diligence on the topics most important to our community," O'Brien said in a statement. "We know what matters most to the public we serve, and we are committed to completing diligent, independent audits."

In his 2023 plan, he takes a swing at City Council, which he announced he would audit in 2021, leading to back-and-forth spats over how the audit would work.

Council pushed back on the process and insisted an observer sit in meetings between Council staff and the auditor's office, which he objected to.

"Council's interest in having a staffer be in the room for observation and notetaking in no way undermines the auditor's role, responsibility, or authority," said now-Council President Jamie Torres, in December 2021. "It is our staff who would feel more supported sitting with the auditor's team if accompanied by a notetaker so they can provide full attention to the questions. We remain interested in cooperating with the scheduled audit and have been thus far, but we won't be bullied into decisions that have no legal basis."

Denver City Council president Jamie Torres. Aug. 29, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In March, the auditor sued City Council over a 2021 law it passed giving his office subpoena powers. While he worked with Council on the measure, it specified that city agencies only be required to give on-site access to materials, which he opposed.

The lawsuit is still in process. Yet in 2022, his efforts to audit City Council will continue.

"I also plan to renew my office's efforts to examine the Denver City Council's operations, despite significant challenges in working with council leadership," he wrote. "No government entity is above independent scrutiny and I intend to conduct this audit in alignment with the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards the people of Denver empower me to follow on every audit."

The auditor is an elected position, and O'Brien is up for reelection in spring of 2023.

There are currently two people, including him, who are running. His opponent is Erik Clarke.

O'Brien has currently raised $862.93 and has $21,471.29 in the bank, as of September 30.

Clarke has raised $31,841.71 and received $49,548.60 through the city's Fair Election Fund.

The winner will take the seat mid-July.

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