2021 Annual Report

2021 Annual Report

Auditor’s Letter

Denver Auditor Timothy M. O'Brien

My office serves as a check and balance for Denver’s government on behalf of the community we serve. In 2021, we took on the challenges posed by the pandemic and recovery work, while maintaining our high standards of professionalism and service.

City leaders strive to equitably support the recovery of residents, businesses, and everyone who cares about Denver. Our audit work can help them achieve efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and transparency. Our wage teams can also help workers and employers build a stronger economy that includes everyone.

Equity is a planning consideration in every audit we do. One of our first steps in the audit process is to consider risk for inequity in the agencies, programs, and systems we examine.

In this report, you will find summaries of our audit highlights and impacts identified from our follow-up work. We also provide a detailed look at Denver Labor’s successes in working with both employees and businesses throughout the city. Read more about our exemplary staff, our office’s work on behalf of everyone who cares about the city, and how we strive for open communication with all members of our diverse community.

First, let me extend my appreciation to Mayor Michael B. Hancock, the Denver City Council, the independent Audit Committee, and members of the city’s operational management for supporting our mission throughout the year.

New in 2021, the City Council approved additional authority for the elected Auditor that allows me to use subpoenas when working with external entities for audits and wage enforcement work. This necessary tool will help ensure we have access to the records we need in a timely manner and at a lower cost to the taxpayer. I am pleased to report we did not have cause to use this new authority in 2021. We are grateful for our community partners who work cooperatively through our regular processes to find satisfactory resolutions for the best benefit of the people we serve.

In the past year, my audit teams examined some of the city’s most used, necessary, and beloved programs to see what was working and what could be improved. We continued to see a trend of inadequate oversight of third-party contracts and construction projects.

I was pleased to find the city did a good job setting up safeguards and plans for spending the first round of federal coronavirus relief dollars. The federal government sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the City and County of Denver, and I identified it as a high priority to audit right away to ensure the city was not only managing that money well but was also ready for the next round and future recovery efforts. The initial coronavirus relief funds were used for food assistance, public health efforts, economic support, and individual support.

The city was not as well prepared to manage new tax revenue to support our parks. My team examined how Denver used a new portion of sales and use tax approved to support park maintenance and the purchase of new parks. We found the city is buying new land, which requires more care, while leaving existing parks below adequate standards for maintenance. Denver’s parks and recreation staff were severely impacted by pandemic budget cuts and furloughs, leaving one of the most widely popular public resources without the tools it needs for success.

We saw the impacts of the pandemic on city agencies in several audits. Staff turnover, challenges in workforce hiring, budget cuts, and changes in the workplace caused many concerns for city management.

Meanwhile, Denver Labor’s goal to protect Denver’s employers and employees and ensure everyone is paid according to the law is even more important as our economy starts to recover from the shutdowns and restrictions of the pandemic.

Our team of analysts investigate 100% of wage complaints. In the first two years of citywide minimum wage enforcement, we used a complaint-based system to recover unpaid wages and to track data about industry compliance and community needs. This helped prepare us for a data-driven, proactive enforcement method in 2022.

Denver Labor is looking deeper and analyzing more details in payrolls and invoices than ever before to ensure thousands of workers across the city receive the money they are owed. Through outreach, education, and investigation, our team works with both employers and employees. Our wage team helps keep business working and city funds going out the door to contractors and workers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In 2021, we were honored to receive the top auditing award for local governments of our size in the U.S. and Canada. The Association of Local Government Auditors recognized our team with an Exemplary Knighton Award for their work on the 2020 audit of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program — an audit still impacting our community today. Awards like this let the public know they can trust the work we do on their behalf.

Our work is performed on behalf of everyone who cares about the city, including its residents, workers, and decision-makers. Our mission is to deliver independent, transparent, and professional oversight to safeguard the public’s investment in the City and County of Denver.

Our function as an independent agency serves as a tool for good government in the city. Your input matters to us — and to other city leaders. By continuing to support our work and elevate the issues we cover, you help ensure Denver’s leaders take meaningful action.

Follow us on social media, sign up for our monthly email newsletter, or reach out to us directly by emailing auditor@denvergov.org to share your thoughts, concerns, or questions. Read this Annual Report in Spanish here.

Sincerely,

Auditor's Signature

Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA
 

2021 Audits and Follow-ups

2021 Audit Reports

Denver Art Museum
Audit: January 2021(PDF, 6MB)

Compensation Setting Analysis
Audit: February 2021(PDF, 3MB)

Phishing
Audit: April 2021(PDF, 1MB)

Information Technology Disaster Recovery
Audit: April 2021(PDF, 5MB)

Records Management
Audit: May 2021(PDF, 11MB)

Cybersecurity Asset Management

Assessment: June 2021(PDF, 638KB)

Denver County Jail Building 24 Buildout Contract
Examination: June 2021(PDF, 5MB)

Coronavirus Relief Funding
Audit: July 2021(PDF, 2MB)

2021 Semi-Annual Audit Analytics Update
Audit Analytics Update: August 2021(PDF, 2MB)

Airport Parking Shuttle System
Audit: August 2021(PDF, 3MB)

Cybersecurity Passport Hygiene
Assessment: September 2021(PDF, 4MB)

Denver Golf Operations
Audit: September 2021(PDF, 6MB)

Construction Manager/General Contractor Project Delivery Method
Audit: September 2021(PDF, 3MB)

Parks Legacy Plan
Audit: October 2021(PDF, 3MB)

Expense Report Approval Process
Audit: November 2021(PDF, 2MB)

Transparency: Public Notice and Engagement
Audit: November 2021(PDF, 4MB)

Cybersecurity: Network Operations Center
Assessment: December 2021(PDF, 707KB)

Follow-up and Impacts

The Audit Services Division follows up on all recommendations an audited agency agreed with to determine whether city agencies sufficiently addressed our audit findings and mitigated the risks our audits identified. We communicate our follow-up activities in formal reports published online, specifying whether and how each recommendation was implemented or why an agency did not implement an agreed-upon recommendation. The city’s implementation of our recommendations is one way we measure the impact of our audit work.

Workday Post Implementation Assessment
Follow-up: January 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: December 2019(PDF, 4MB)

Contract Procurement Practices
Follow-up: January 2021(PDF, 2MB)
Original Audit: June 2019(PDF, 3MB)

Preserving Affordable Housing
Follow-up: January 2021(PDF, 2MB)  
Original Audit: August 2019(PDF, 16MB)

Property Tax Assessment Processes
Follow-up: February 2021(PDF, 2MB)
Original Audit: October 2019(PDF, 4MB)

Interstate Highway Construction Contract Examination
Follow-up: April 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: November 2019(PDF, 2MB)

Westin Hotel Revenue
Follow-up: April 2021(PDF, 636KB)  
Original Audit: February 2019(PDF, 13MB)

Airport Improvement Grants
Follow-up: May 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: September 2019(PDF, 5MB)

County Courts IT General Controls
Follow-up: June 2021(PDF, 727KB)
Original Audit: August 2018(PDF, 1MB)

Denver International Airport Cybersecurity Operations
Follow-up: June 2021(PDF, 673KB)
Original Audit: September 2019(PDF, 5MB)

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Grant
Follow-up: July 2021(PDF, 1MB)  
Original Audit: March 2020(PDF, 4MB)

Prevailing Wage Rate Determination Process
Follow-up: August 2021(PDF, 913KB)  
Original Audit: September 2020(PDF, 2MB)

Denver Public Trustee
Follow-up: August 2021(PDF, 4MB)
Original Audit: (PDF, 10MB)March 2019(PDF, 10MB)

Hensel Phelps Construction Contract
Follow-up: September 2021(PDF, 932KB)  
Original Audit: September 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Employment Services Cluster Grants
Follow-up: September 2021(PDF, 4MB)  
Original Audit: August 2020(PDF, 2MB)

Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant
Follow-up: October 2021(PDF, 736KB)  
Original Audit: August 2020(PDF, 4MB)

Minority/Women and/or Disadvantaged Business Program
Follow-up: November 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: June 2020(PDF, 2MB)

Open Records Request Process
Follow-up: November 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: May 2020(PDF, 3MB)

City Real Estate Portfolio Practices
Follow-up: November 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: May 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Marijuana Taxation
Follow-up: November 2021(PDF, 3MB)  
Original Audit: April 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Library Financial Processes
Follow-up: November 2021(PDF, 955KB)
Original Audit: June 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Public Works Asset Management Software Applications
Follow-up: November 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: January 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Denver Employee Retirement Plan Actuarial Valuation
Follow-up: December 2021(PDF, 727KB)
Original Audit: November 2019(PDF, 3MB)

Ethics
Follow-up: December 2021(PDF, 851KB)
Original Audit: February 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Accounts Receivable – Denver International Airport
Follow-up: December 2021(PDF, 1MB)
Original Audit: September 2019(PDF, 9MB)

AUDIT IMPACTS

Our audit recommendations are intended to help city agencies better serve the people of Denver. Auditor O’Brien was disappointed with the lack of follow-through from certain city agencies in 2021. Some agencies took excellent steps to completely implement our audit recommendations. Others took little action at all.

When city managers take our findings seriously, we all benefit from the improvements. We completed 24 follow- ups in 2021 of reports issued since 2018. Out of the 283 recommendations, only 41% or 117 recommendations were fully implemented. Agencies partially implemented 16% or 44 of our recommendations and did not implement 34% or 97 of our recommendations. Agencies previously disagreed with 9% or 25 of the recommendations from these reports

Some work was out of city leaders’ control because of the pandemic. Limited resources and staff shortages citywide slowed some implementations beyond the agencies’ expected dates for completion. However, these hardships cannot account for all the not-implemented recommendations.

For example, out of 23 recommendations, the city only fully implemented six from our audit of the Minority/ Women and/or Disadvantaged Business Program. We still have concerns about how the city monitors contractors’ and subcontractors’ compliance with participation goals. The city needs to ensure consistent enforcement of inclusion goals on city projects so businesses owned by women and people of color can have improved opportunities with the City and County of Denver.

And the city implemented only one of 10 recommendations from our audit of the city’s real estate portfolio practices. The changes in how and where city staff work because of the pandemic are good examples of why city management must act on these recommendations.

The city needs a complete picture of all city property — including city-owned property, leased property, vacant land, and parks. However, by the end of 2021, the city’s real estate portfolio remained incomplete.

When our recommendations are implemented, it can improve how the city uses its limited resources, it can mean better services for the public, and it can support better equity and accessibility in city programs.

We identified several examples of improvements in how city agencies manage grants — which increases accountability and ensures more grant money from the state and federal government will be secured for its intended purpose.

Our audit team also found several city agencies improved how they track, assess, and monitor noncompetitive contracts and their contract procurement processes.

We conduct audits on behalf of the people of Denver. Their support and the support of city agencies help us make meaningful recommendations that result in real change and improvement.



Denver Labor - Wages Report

About Denver Labor

Denver Labor Lead Team

Denver Labor Organizational Chart

Denver Labor works with both businesses and workers to resolve wage compliance issues in ways that work for everyone. We take an education-first approach to wage law compliance and enforcement. Denver Labor works to foster community relationships with businesses and labor organizations and educate our diverse community on labor issues. We audit 100% of certified payrolls and investigate 100% of wage complaints. This report serves as our required annual minimum wage report.

The Denver City Council passed a local minimum wage ordinance on Nov. 25, 2019, and the citywide minimum wage took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. In 2021, the ordinance set the hourly citywide minimum wage at $14.77 per hour.

In 2022, the ordinance requires that wage rate to increase to $15.87 per hour. Both the separate minimum wage for city contractors and the prevailing wage rate still apply as determined by law. Employers must pay the greatest applicable wage rate for any work performed in the city or on city projects.

Minimum Wage

In November 2019, the Denver City Council created Denver Revised Municipal Code Chapter 58-16, which sets the local minimum wage for Denver and prescribes the means for setting, enforcing, and complying with the new local minimum wage.

In 2021, our team of skilled minimum wage analysts increased community awareness and compliance with Denver’s minimum wage. They demonstrated leadership and innovation as they found new ways to engage some of the most vulnerable workers in our community. Denver Labor Executive Director Jeffrey Garcia and our team of analysts used our complaint-based system to investigate possible underpayments and track important data to pinpoint some of the most at-risk workers and industries.

The citywide minimum wage was $14.77 per hour, with few exceptions. Denver Labor’s goal is to protect Denver’s employers and employees and ensure everyone is paid according to the law.

Our office believes education for both employers and the public is the key to a successful citywide minimum wage ordinance. This year, we held nearly 50 live training sessions on Facebook — called “Wages Wednesday” — related to all of Denver’s wage laws, what the laws mean for employees and employers, and how they can stay in compliance. We made these virtual trainings accessible by conducting them in both English and Spanish and by making our bilingual staff available to answer questions in either language. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to hold virtual events, community meetings, and training sessions throughout the year.

We also offer several useful tools for both employers and employees on our website — including a regional address finder to help determine whether work performed was in the boundaries of the City and County of Denver, a minimum wage and tip calculator, an employer underpayment calculator, a tips tracker for the food and beverage industry, and complaint forms in English and in Spanish.

This year, our “Earned It, Deserved It” campaign reached people across the city in new ways and led to a significant increase in engagement and awareness in the community. The campaign depicted workers and their supportive employers successfully working together by following the city’s minimum wage ordinance. We used digital ads, ads at regional  bus stops, radio, television, and social platforms to reach people in their homes and communities in both English and Spanish.

The contractor minimum wage rate — which impacts city employees and contractors especially at the airport — increased on July 1, 2021, to $15 per hour and will go up again on July 1, 2022, based on the Consumer Price Index. Workers covered by the contractor minimum wage work on city projects in concessions, catering, maintenance, ramp and cargo work at the airport, hospitality, security, and other jobs on city property.

Denver wage rates timeline

This complex graphic shows the wage rates timeline in dollars per hour, split over three rows.

Row one shows the Denver Citywide Minimum wage. This wage was $14.77 per hour beginning January 1, 2021; $15.87 per hour beginning January 1, 2022; $and will be $15.87 per hour plus the Consumer Price Index in 2023.

Row two shows the Denver Contractor Minimum Wage. This wage was $15 per hour beginning July 1, 2021; $15 plus the Consumer Price Index beginning July 1, 2022, and the 2022 wage plus the Consumer Price Index beginning July 1. 2023.

Row three shows the Prevailing Wage which is determined by the Denver Office of Human Resources and is a series of wages based on job classification.

Minimum Wage Restitution Stories

Local Restaurant Pays $18,000 in Returned Wages
An underpaid employee from a local restaurant in Denver reached out to us by submitting a wage complaint. We discovered their employer had not paid the required citywide minimum wage rate in 2020 and 2021.

After working with our analysts, the restaurant reacted quickly and returned nearly $18,000 to 20 employees. Once more, this story showcases the willingness of local businesses to collaborate with our team and do what’s right for their workers.

Nearly 200 Employees Compensated, Wages Permanently Raised
Home improvement sales employees who were compensated by a mix of base pay and commission were not being paid Denver’s citywide minimum wage when their sales goals were not met. Almost $16,000 was recovered for 194 employees and all employees’ base wage rates were raised to prevent future underpayments.

National Store Cooperates to Increase Wages
A large national retailer with a store near Denver’s border mistakenly thought it was subject to the state minimum wage instead of Denver’s minimum wage. Through education and cooperation, the employer corrected the mistake, raised employees’ wages, and paid 25 employees more than $2,600 in back pay.

Janitorial Company Faces Back Pay and Fines
A janitorial company incorrectly classified its employees as independent contractors to avoid having to pay minimum wage. The company refused to work with Denver Labor to correct its wage rates and achieve compliance with the law. Our office worked with an outside collections agency to recover $4,000 in unpaid wages for 24 employees, in addition to fines.

Fast-Food Chain Raises Wages
Operators of a fast-food restaurant near Denver’s border mistakenly paid less than Denver’s minimum wage. Managers worked with our team to repay more than $7,000 in underpayments for 46 employees, and they permanently increased hourly pay.

Hair Salon Incorrectly Deducts Tips
Hair stylists in a national hair salon chain were paid the minimum wage, but their employer claimed the tip credit that applies only to the food and beverage industry. Our team recovered $16,000 for 25 employees.

Every dollar matters to Denver’s workers and every case matters to Denver Labor. Read more successful restitution stories for Denver Labor on our website.

Prevailing Wage

In 2021, Denver’s mayor prioritized bond projects and construction as part of the city’s effort to encourage economic recovery from pandemic-related shutdowns. The Auditor’s prevailing wage team works with both contractors and workers on all Denver projects to ensure compliance and payment according to the law. We have enforced prevailing wage requirements in

Denver since the 1950s. Contractors and subcontractors doing work at or in connection with the operation of any public building or doing public work on behalf of the City and County of Denver must pay their workers the prevailing wage. By revamping the city’s prevailing wage ordinance in 2016, Auditor O’Brien changed the way Denver does business on all projects and changed how work is performed on city property. Now, his growing team works to bring all parties together to make Denver a good, efficient place to work.

Prevailing wage is required on contracts of $2,000 or more for construction, improvement, repair, maintenance, demolition, or janitorial work. Through education, outreach, and investigation, our prevailing wage team works with both employers and employees. Our work helps support businesses in compliance with the law and we strive to put city funds into the hands of contractors and workers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Wage reporting software, easy-to-use tutorial videos, and public question-and-answer sessions help streamline the process. Our analysts work with employers to ensure employees are classified correctly, and we also work with employers to guide them through the reporting process.

We can accommodate training and event requests in English and Spanish, both virtually and in person. In Denver’s increasingly competitive job market, both employers and employees win when companies offer wages at least in line with the law. Employers ensure positive customer experiences, successful business models, and stability in their workplace by paying their workers according to the law.

Prevailing Wage Restitution Stories

Here are some examples of how we worked with both employers and employees this year to recover unpaid wages in accordance with the prevailing wage ordinance:

Cooperative Contractor Returns Nearly $86,000 to Employees
A contractor performing custodial work at the Denver Zoo significantly underpaid its employees, resulting in $85,826.48 owed to 21 employees. The contractor started performing the custodial work at the Denver Zoo before the Auditor’s Office discovered that neither the contract nor the contractor had been set up in our compliance software. The contractor had not submitted certified payroll records for our review, and the underpayments were the result of the contractor paying its employees less than the custodian prevailing wage. The contractor cooperated and issued restitution checks expeditiously.

Worker Receives More Than $7,000 in Restitution
The Auditor’s Office enforces Davis-Bacon compliance on City and County of Denver/federal projects. In one recent case, an out-of-state crane contractor employing a power equipment operator for cranes on a Davis-Bacon project underpaid its employee. As a result, the employee received $7,043.41 in restitution.

Misclassified Airport Employees Receive $9,500
A contractor installing a solar-power system at Denver International Airport misclassified their employees as roofers instead of electricians, which resulted in a significant underpayment for the workers. The minimum prevailing wage rate for roofers was $16.56 per hour compared to the $52.68 per hour prevailing wage that the contractor was required to pay for electrical work, which then increased to $54.97 per hour after the project’s wage anniversary. This resulted in an underpayment of up to $38.41 per hour for the workers. After the investigation, Denver Labor analysts recovered $9,575.22 in total restitution to seven employees.

Every dollar matters to Denver’s workers and every case matters to Denver Labor. Read more successful restitution stories for Denver Labor on our website.

ARE YOU OWED MONEY?
If you were underpaid at work, our office might have a restitution check waiting for you. Check for your name on our website.

 

Recovered wages by Denver Labor in 2021

This graph shows Denver’s unpaid wages recovered by the labor division of the Denver Auditor’s Office by year. In 2013, $101,905 were recovered. In 2014, $142,977 were recovered. In 2015, $84,232 were recovered. In 2016, $701,787 were recovered. In 2017, $417,271 were recovered. In 2018, $265,243 were recovered. In 2019, $678,559 were recovered. In 2020, $1,017,363 were recovered. In 2021, Denver Labor recovered $690,298 for workers.


Minimum Wage Results

30

19

5

new investigations cases closed
with restitution
cases closed
with no underpayment
cases open
at end of year

 

Prevailing Wage Results

100%

86K

22K 

245.5M

certified payroll
audit rate
payrolls audited employees on
audited payrolls
project payroll
value ($)

 


Office Accomplishments

As an accomplished Certified Public Accountant with more than 40 years of auditing experience, Auditor O’Brien values the professional development and growth of his entire staff. Audit team members met high standards again this year through continued professional learning and achievements, industry conferences, staff presentations, involvement in professional organizations, and community contributions.

Professional Accomplishments

Our teams use the highest standards on every audit assignment and wage investigation. In 2021, we successfully adjusted to a hybrid work environment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and refocused our priorities to support the city’s recovery efforts. Our monthly Audit Committee met virtually throughout the year and we did both in-person and virtual trainings for employers and community groups throughout the city.

In 2021, we also took action to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion in all divisions of the office. Our emphasis on equity is a planning consideration in every audit we do. One of our first planning steps in the audit process is to consider risk for inequity in the agencies, programs, and systems we examine. We held listening sessions with our staff this year to talk about equity in the workplaces and in our community. As a result of those listening sessions, we created an inclusive language guide to help ensure the words we choose in our writing are representative and inclusive of our entire community.

Together, we served the people of Denver through thoughtful auditing, investigations, and hard work, even in the face of adversity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Auditor O’Brien is a certified public accountant with more than 40 years of auditing experience. He recognizes the importance of professional development, of continuous learning throughout a career, and of serving the community in the office and beyond. Auditor’s Office team members met high standards again this year through continued professional learning and achievements, industry conferences, staff presentations, involvement in professional organizations, and community contributions.

Auditing Accomplishments

Audit Services, under the leadership of Auditor O’Brien and Deputy Auditor Valerie Walling, completed impactful, substantive work on behalf of the people of Denver. Our office integrated the auditing specialties and experience of all our auditors, along with Audit Directors Katja Freeman and Dawn Wiseman, to ensure the quality and impact of our work. We completed performance, financial, information technology, data analytics, and compliance audit work. Our teams diligently provide in-depth analysis of city systems, programs, contracts, finances, and processes, depending on the objectives of each audit. We work to achieve our annual Audit Plan goals using comprehensive risk assessments, with an emphasis on equity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

In 2021, we were honored to receive the top auditing award in the U.S. and Canada for local governments of our size. The Association of Local Government Auditors recognized our team with an Exemplary Knighton Award for their work on the 2020 audit of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program(PDF, 8MB)  — an audit still impacting our community today. Awards like this are important because they let the public know they can trust the work we do on their behalf. The prestigious Knighton awards recognize the best work from government auditing offices each year. Top award winners must show their work had a potential for significant impact in the community; that the audit has persuasive, logical, and firmly supported conclusions; that recommendations will make government programs more efficient and effective; and that the report uses clear and concise communication.

Winners of the award must also show they use appropriate research methods and tools and that they are responsive to the needs and concerns of decision-makers and the public. The audit team members who earned recognition for this award-winning audit through their intensive efforts were Audit Director Katja Freeman, Audit Manager Kharis Eppstein, Lead Auditor Shaun Wysong, Senior Auditor Darrell Finke, Associate Auditor Daniel Summers, and Associate Auditor Megan Kelly.

Our office had four members who volunteered to serve on and participate in the Association of Local Government Auditors governing committees. Deputy Auditor Valerie Walling served on the Awards Committee; Audit Director Katja Freeman was chair of the Professional Issues Committee; Audit Director Dawn Wiseman was vice-chair of the Professional Issues Committee; and Reporting Specialist Kristen Clark served on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and became the association’s deputy communications liaison.

Members of our auditing division participated in professional conferences remotely to further their education and expertise. Members of the audit teams also presented at national conferences, including Dr. Samuel Gallaher, who is an audit analytics manager; Audit Analytics Lead Robert Persichitte; and Information Systems Audit Manager Jared Miller presented at the Rocky Mountain Area Conference on their innovative cybersecurity and audit analytics work.

Our auditors’ expertise and knowledge are valuable to auditors across Colorado, the United States, and internationally, and we are happy to share our experience with our peers and support the progress of government auditing. Our data analytics and continuous auditing techniques are some of the most advanced in the country, and we are proud to continue to develop more efficient ways to monitor city risks.

Denver Labor Accomplishments

Auditor O’Brien, Denver Labor Executive Director Jeffrey Garcia, and the labor team had a year of growth and significant impact in 2021.

The Denver Labor team continues to build relationships in the community to encourage employers to pay employees according to the law. Members of the team stepped up to provide weekly trainings in both English and Spanish, allowing for an inclusive and accessible dialogue about the city’s processes.

This year, Denver Labor took in more minimum wage complaints than ever and investigated 100% of cases. We worked cooperatively with employers to find resolutions to wages not paid in accordance with the law.

Our analysts audited 100% of certified payrolls for prevailing wage. Read more about the excellent work this team accomplished in our Denver Labor Wages Report section.

Outstanding Staff

Our staff comprises many talented, well-educated, and hard-working people. This year, our team worked to improve their work, themselves, our office, and our industry. Deputy Auditor Valerie Walling served as a member of the Jefferson County Audit Committee and on The Institute of Internal Auditors’ Denver board.

Audit Manager Kharis Eppstein completed her studies this year to become a Certified Internal Auditor. Auditor O’Brien encourages all staff to continue their education and obtain professional certifications to show the high level of professionalism and qualification in our work. Eppstein also served her community this year by becoming the elected board president for the Alpine Rescue Team.

Our Safety Committee helped keep members of our office safe and healthy this year with the leadership and support of committee members Kharis Eppstein, Edyie Thompson, Rafael Gongón, Vilma Balnyte, Darrell Finke, Nick Jimroglou, Tyson Faussone, and Daniel Summers.

Our New Employee Onboarding Committee worked this year to welcome new employees into a hybrid virtual work environment. Committee members included Edyie Thompson, Emily Owens Gerber, Kharis Eppstein, Valerie Walling, Tayler Overschmidt, Katja Freeman, John Danilenko-Dixon, Cyndi Lubrano, Kristin McCormack, Nick Jimroglou, Dawn Wiseman, and Tammy Phillips.

Our Events Committee kept our office connected even from home by organizing virtual gathering opportunities. Finding ways to maintain positive relationships and a strong team was more important than ever this year, since our team couldn’t stay in touch in person. Thanks to committee members Rafael Gongón, Cyndi Lubrano, Anna Hansen, Cody Schulte, John Danilenko-Dixon, Sara del Valle Ruiz, Kristin McCormack, Megan O’Brien, Brandon Stolba, and Shaun Wysong for your fun ideas and organization.

Learn more about staff here



Denver Auditor's Office 

Who We Are

Office of the Auditor
Auditor's Office Executive Team

The mission of the Auditor’s Office is to deliver independent, transparent, and professional oversight in order to safeguard and improve the public’s investment in Denver. Our work is performed on behalf of everyone who cares about the city, including its residents, workers, and decision-makers.

Denver’s Auditor is unique because Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, was elected by the people and is independent from all other citywide elected officials and city operational management. He works independently from Mayor Hancock’s office and the City Council to maintain objectivity and offer frank, truthful reports for the betterment of Denver. Auditor O’Brien was elected to a four-year term in 2015 and re elected for a second term in 2019.

The Denver Charter provides for the Auditor to conduct:

  • Financial and performance audits of the City and County of Denver and its departments and agencies in accordance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards;
  • Audits of individual financial transactions, contracts and franchises of the City and County; and
  • Audits of the financial accounting systems and procedures administered by the Manager of Finance and other departments and agencies of the City and County, including records systems, revenue identification and accounting, and payment practices.

The Denver Charter mandates the Auditor follow the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards published by the U.S. Comptroller General, as well as financial management best practices and any applicable laws and regulations governing the financial practices of Denver.

Denver’s charter further requires Auditor O’Brien to countersign all city contracts to ensure no liability is incurred, no money is disbursed, and no city property is disposed of in a manner contrary to law.

The Auditor’s Office also oversees enforcement of the city’s minimum wages, prevailing wage, and living wage ordinances.

Denver Labor  a division of the Auditor’s Office, promotes lawful employment and wage compliance while providing exceptional labor, wage, and hourly enforcement. Our goal is to protect Denver’s employers and employees through education and by ensuring everyone is paid according to the law.

That means Auditor O’Brien works with both employers and employees to ensure every worker is paid according to the law. The office does outreach and works individually with contractors and business owners to help them understand these laws. Our analysts also help identify correct worker prevailing wage classifications. The office’s Denver Labor division oversees education and enforcement of the citywide minimum wage law.

The Auditor’s Office has the authority to issue subpoenas to gain access to records from external agencies if documents needed for an audit are not produced voluntarily first.

The Denver Charter and city ordinance authorize the Auditor to have access to all officers, employees, records, and property maintained by the City and County of Denver, and to all external entities, records, and personnel related to their business interactions with the city. No subpoenas were issued in 2021.

The Auditor is chairman of the Audit Committee, whose primary task is to annually commission an independent external audit of Denver. In addition, results of audits are presented to the Audit Committee. To ensure the committee’s independence, the mayor, City Council members, and Auditor O’Brien each appoint two members to four-year terms.

Audit Services Division

The Audit Services Division produces independent financial and performance audits and other types of assessments of city agencies, programs, finances, technology, grants, and contracts. The resulting recommendations from these efforts help strengthen governance, improve performance, enhance efficiency, increase revenues, reduce costs and risks, and improve the quality of services for Denver.

Performance audits review the efficiency and effectiveness of agencies’ work, as well as the overall use of Denver tax dollars. Financial audits take a close look at an agency’s records and processes, or a grant program’s oversight and compliance, to identify errors in reporting and payments and other risks to the city and its reputation. Meanwhile, contract compliance audits determine whether a third-party vendor — and/or a city agency — is following the terms of a contract. Information technology audits and cybersecurity assessments review the controls and operation of the city’s network, software applications, and cybersecurity processes to make sure they are operating correctly.

Key audits completed this year included a report calling for better clarity about who owns and is responsible for certain assets at the Denver Art Museum. We were unable to complete all aspects of the audit due to restrictions placed on our access to key information. We also analyzed how the city monitors equity in pay for city employees but found city managers are not tracking data in a format that allows comprehensive and regular reviews.

An audit of Denver’s Parks Legacy Fund found the city is behind on maintenance, even as management purchases more land and staff is insufficient to keep up with park needs. And we made recommendations to help the Clerk and Recorder’s Office better maintain and protect residents’ personally identifiable information and historical documents.

We completed several cybersecurity assessments to help city agencies strengthen their protections against hackers. And we conducted several contract compliance and construction audits to help track how taxpayer dollars are used by third parties — where we found a need for better oversight.

A follow-up assessment is performed after the last implementation date given by agencies in response to recommendations in each audit. The follow-up reports confirm whether the agreed-upon recommendations were in fact implemented. We follow up on every audit to see whether our findings of important risks are effectively mitigated and providing constructive impact.

Our continuous auditing and data analytics programs help identify high-risk areas of the city by repeatedly performing updated analyses of transactional data from different city databases. Using automation, we sort through thousands of data entries, rather than rely only on a random sample. This helps inform our risk assessments for current or future audits and can help us focus on areas of higher concern. The resulting reports provide us with timely feedback of anomalies or outliers in the city’s processes and transactions.

Auditor O’Brien also contracts with professional service firms to provide third-party audits and engagements where specialized expertise is needed, such as in a particular industry or technical discipline. This is an efficient way to complete specialized work such as cybersecurity audits or actuarial work, among other areas of focus. Hiring these firms on a contract basis allows our office to expand its range of audits while using taxpayer funds prudently.

Our annual Audit Plan — which includes many different types of engagements intended to address key risks to the city — is compiled based on risk assessments of city agencies, input from community members, information from city leaders, current events, regulatory changes, and other factors. You can read the 2022 Audit Plan here.

You can read all 2021 audit reports on our website.

Audit Committee

Auditor O’Brien is the chairman of the independent Audit Committee, which meets monthly. The other six members of the committee are appointed to staggered four-year terms. The members and their appointing authorities are listed below. Members are appointed based on their education or experience in accounting, auditing, financial management, or related fields.

The primary responsibility of the Audit Committee is to commission an annual independent external audit of the city’s finances. The Audit Committee also receives the results of audits, assessments, and examinations performed or commissioned by the Auditor’s Office’s Audit Services Division — as well as the results of annual external audits.

In addition to audits of the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report and the single audit report of major grant programs, external audit firms audit Denver International Airport and the Wastewater Management Enterprise Fund, which are city enterprises. An external firm also audits the Deferred Compensation Plan Trust Fund.

All audit reports and committee meeting minutes are published, and committee meetings are televised on Denver 8 TV. Audit Committee meetings were virtual in 2021 thanks to the hard work of our audit teams, the Audit Committee members, and the team at Denver 8 TV.

Audit Committee Members

  • Rudolfo (Rudy) Payan, Vice-Chairman (appointed by Auditor O’Brien)
  • Jack Blumenthal (appointed by Auditor O’Brien)
  • Leslie Mitchell (appointed by City Council)
  • Florine Nath (appointed by City Council)
  • Charles Scheibe (appointed by Mayor Hancock)
  • Edward Scholz (appointed by Mayor Hancock)

Contract Administration

The City and County of Denver enters into thousands of contracts every year. The Denver Charter mandates Auditor O’Brien review and sign every city contract to ensure any liability incurred, any money disbursed, or any property disposed of is done so according to the law.

Auditor O’Brien believes progress in the city should not be held up by processes and paperwork. As a result, he works to get contracts signed more quickly while still ensuring a thorough review.

Denver contracts can range from low-dollar agreements to multimillion-dollar technology purchases or construction projects. The Auditor’s Office continues to perform contract compliance, financial and specialty audits, evaluations, and assessments to monitor these contracts. Auditor O’Brien believes the city has a responsibility to keep a close watch on contracts to confirm third parties uphold their agreements and spend taxpayer dollars as promised.

Community Outreach

In our office, we are continuously exploring new ways to reach members of the community where they are and in ways that matter to them. We work with community groups, registered neighborhood organizations, businesses, and other organizations to spread the word about what we do. You can reach us at your convenience by signing up for our monthly newsletter or by visiting our website, Nextdoor, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

The Denver Auditor and his communications team believe in transparency and accountability in local government. As a check and balance on the “strong mayor system,” we work on behalf of taxpayers to make sure residents know what is happening in the city.

In 2021, we took steps to make our work even more accessible by moving our website to a platform with new language and ADA access tools available. We reached out virtually and in person and worked with community partners in new ways to reach a broader audience across the city. We emphasized language equity and authentic engagement with our diverse and vibrant community

The Auditor’s community outreach efforts ensure the important work of the office is more widely known and understood. We post unique content on different platforms about community events, important city updates, audit information, labor and wage developments, and other key communications.

The Auditor also continues to emphasize visual media and outreach, including an ongoing initiative to bring information about auditing and wage enforcement to YouTube and local television through Denver 8 TV. Don’t miss our monthly broadcasts of episodes of “Ask the Auditor” and our weekly “Wages Wednesday” Facebook live training sessions.

New in 2021, we worked with local radio, television, and digital platforms to raise awareness about Denver’s citywide minimum wage. Our English and Spanish outreach targeted some of the most vulnerable populations with the goal of ensuring everyone is aware of their wage rights. Education and awareness for both businesses and workers is central to our wage enforcement work.

Our multiplatform approach to outreach helps the Auditor’s Office maintain two-way communication with the people we serve. Residents provide valuable information about what is and is not working in the city. The Auditor always wants to hear from residents. Anyone who cares about Denver may contact our office by phone, by email, on social media, or at community meetings.

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 Auditor Tim O'Brien headshot

AUDITOR TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, CPA
Denver Auditor


Denver Auditor´s Office

201 W. Colfax Ave. #705 Denver, CO 80202
Emailauditor@denvergov.org
Call: 720-913-5000
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