Scottsdale City Auditor Cheryl Dreska — whose office has released hard-hitting reviews of city department operations — has been the subject of three closed-door City Council discussions because a former colleague filed a complaint against her during his last week on the job, the Tribune has learned.
Former Scottsdale senior auditor Ramon Ramirez, who worked alongside Dreska for 16 years, filed the complaint June 11 shortly before taking a similar position with Chandler.
On June 18, Scottsdale Mayor Manross called a closed council session for the next day. Subsequent closed sessions were held June 26 and July 10, the last council meeting before the summer hiatus that ends Tuesday.
Dreska, who remains on the job, has declined to comment. Ramirez also declined to talk specifically about the Scottsdale situation.
And while council members can’t reveal what they discussed among themselves or the merits of the complaint that has been withheld by the city, some have speculated that the need to meet three times on this complaint is tied to Dreska’s well-publicized audits. Those audits revealed faults with the operations of the police department’s documentation and storage of evidence, the code enforcement department’s citation and hearing process and the Scottsdale Cultural Council’s public art storage policies.
Others say Dreska’s audits have nothing to do with this discussion, which is solely about a personnel complaint.
And every council member said they support the continued independence of the city auditor, who by reporting to the council is out of the city manager’s chain of command.
“They need to be independent to do their job,” Councilwoman Betty Drake said. “They need to be free to tell people the good news and the bad news.”
Councilman Wayne Ecton, who has been the most vocal critic of Dreska’s style, also told the Tribune he agrees that the auditor should report to the council, even though in 2004 he suggested audits should be shorter, friendlier and reviewed by City Manager Jan Dolan before being released. In January, he called for a more “positive approach to audits.”
As the council returns from its summer break, it does not have a fourth closed session scheduled or a planned public discussion on the matter, leaving a number of lingering questions about whether the council plans to investigate Dreska or whether any discipline could be forthcoming.
Manross — who has called for the closed sessions — said she did not know what the next step may be.
“I really can’t discuss this any further — no one on the council can,” Manross said.
Before filing the complaint, Ramirez met with Neal Shearer, an assistant city manager and Scottsdale’s acting human resources general manager. Two days later, on June 8, Shearer had a scheduled phone conversation with Ramirez, according to city documents. The complaint was then filed June 11 and Ramirez’s last day was June 15.
City regulations direct employees to report complaints to the human resources general manager.
“In this matter, an employee in the city auditor’s office contacted (Shearer) in accordance with the (regulations). Shearer advised the City Council because it involved one of their direct reports,” according to a city statement that described the process.
Ramirez said Shearer did not ask to meet or provide any encouragement to file a complaint.
Ramirez had worked for Scottsdale since 1991. He is the fifth auditor’s office employee to leave the city since November.
“I’m giddy about being here (in Chandler),” he said. “It’s been a wonderful organization with everything I’ve encountered up to this point and this is a wonderful opportunity for me.”
Dreska has worked for Scottsdale for 18 years and was appointed city auditor in August 1993. She oversees seven other positions in the auditor’s office and earns $111,758 a year.
In January, the council voted 4-3 to give Dreska and three other top employees raises. The three who voted against her raise — Councilmen Jim Lane, Bob Littlefield and Tony Nelssen — said they supported Dreska and their votes were against giving the city manager a raise.