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Convicted purchasing office employee reassigned to non-financial duties

Thursday, July 29, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

Roy Rivers, the Purchasing Department officer who was convicted of mortgage fraud in 2008 and sentenced to one year of probation, has officially been reassigned to a non-financial position with the city, according to Human Resources Department Director Mark Washington. The decision came in response to a memo released two weeks ago by the city auditor’s office that concluded that Rivers’ criminal history presented a “risk to the City given his job duties.” (See In Fact Daily, July 19, 2010; July 21, 2010.)


Washington told In Fact Daily that, as of the end of business Wednesday, Rivers was no longer a Buyer II in the Purchasing Department but is rather on “special assignment, doing research in our organizational analysis and development unit, helping to research training materials.”


“He has a good background in technical writing and research and working in procurement,” Washington said. “So we’re going to utilize that in another area, in the interim, and that will give us a little more time to see what other permanent opportunities we’ll have for him in the organization.”


Those who hold the title of Buyer II in the Purchasing Department are responsible for duties such as managing bids and solicitations, awarding contracts with the city, and writing/executing purchase contracts.


There is no evidence that Rivers was involved in any wrongdoing related to his city position or any other matter not related to the charge for which he was convicted.


Meanwhile, the city auditor says his office will be issuing an addendum to its original report on Rivers because of an additional piece of evidence they received from the HR department on Monday. That evidence, a grievance recommendation signature page signed by City Manager Marc Ott and Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald, shows that the city manager’s office recommended that Rivers be placed in another position outside his own upon his reinstatement on August 28, 2009, City Auditor Kenneth Mory told In Fact Daily.


On the document, the assistant city manager wrote, “Employee should be placed in another position” over his and Ott’s signatures. It is dated August 28, 2009.


One of the conclusions made by the audit department in its original report concerned the communication problems between city management, the HR department, and the Purchasing Department as to where Rivers should be placed after he was reinstated following his grievance hearing. The Financial and Administrative Services Department, of which the Purchasing Office is a part, informed the City Auditor’s Integrity Unit that they believed Rivers had to be reinstated to his original position.


However, the city manager did have the authority to transfer Rivers elsewhere.


Mory said the additional evidence doesn’t change his office’s findings about that lack of communication, but it “focuses the cause for this having occurred more to the Human Resources Department in doing what they had to do to make sure this person was reassigned.”


“The addendum will probably say there are problems with communication and information flow,” he said. “This information apparently did not get down to the people who were making those decisions. The document did not get forwarded to the people who needed the information.”


The document in question is part of Rivers’ grievance file, which, according to Washington, the auditor’s office did not ask for during its investigation. Instead, he said he found the file recently while preparing a response “on the part of our department so the city manager can respond to the auditor or Council. I discovered that document in the grievance file. Then I notified the auditor’s office and the city manager’s office of my discovery.”


Washington said that he believes that document shows that the HR department is “on the right course” by transferring Rivers. “This just makes us more in line with what the city manager’s original directive was (by making) sure the employee is not returned to the same or similar position, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”


That doesn’t mean he isn’t troubled about what appears to be a severe oversight on the part of his office, one that left a convicted felon in a city position the city manager didn’t want him in for nearly a year. He said he thought that “if the city manager gave a directive back in August of 2009, we should have been more diligent to make sure that directive was executed and that Mr. Rivers was moved to a position without procurement responsibilities. That does concern me.”


Asked how such a mix-up could have happened, Washington said that he is looking into it. “That’s part of my review right now,” he said. “I’m looking into the process, talking to the staff, finding out who was involved. At this point all I can say is it wasn’t done.”


For his part, McDonald, the assistant city manager whose recommendation and signature are on the newly found document, said he was surprised upon hearing two weeks ago that Rivers was still with the Purchasing Department. “I was surprised that what the city manager and I suggested take place had not taken place. It should have been taken care of then,” he said. “When we give directives we expect for them to be followed.”


Asked whether he agreed with the auditor’s assessment that the city was at risk as long as Rivers was in a procurement position, McDonald said he didn’t know enough about Rivers’ job performance to make that decision. He did, however, point out that “we have a number of checks and balances and double signatures in our financial department. So no one person, including the chief financial officer, can make a decision without some support or double signature or some check and balance taking place.”

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