2023 Annual Report

Cover of the 2023 Annual Report.

 

Auditor’s Letter

Denver Auditor Timothy M. O'Brien

Our core values are the heart of how we serve Denver with the highest professionalism and deliver clear results. We value people and our community, integrity and objectivity, accountability and transparency, and quality and productivity.

Through this vision of value and impact for Denver, my office serves as a check and balance for Denver’s government on behalf of the community we serve. In 2023 our recommendations and findings helped city agencies make Denver an even greater place for people to live, work, and spend time. We appreciate the city leaders who take our work seriously and embrace the spirit of improvement throughout the year.

Our audit work can help them achieve efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, equity, and transparency. And our wage teams also help workers and employers build a stronger economy that includes everyone.

In this report, you will find summaries of our audit highlights, our innovative use of audit technology, and impacts identified from our follow-up work.

We also provide a detailed look at Denver Labor’s successes in deterring wage theft, reducing the harms of poverty, and expanding fair competition through comprehensive wage and hour enforcement. 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 the Mayor’s Office, members of the Denver City Council, the independent Audit Committee, and the city’s financial and operational managers for supporting our mission throughout the year.

As we began a new term and a new mayoral administration in 2023, I am hopeful for continued successful relationships with my elected colleagues.

This past year, my audit teams looked at how Denver International Airport is managing and overseeing the Great Hall construction project. Proper project management and contract oversight will continue to be important to avoid overpaying and ensure fair competition for contractors.

We also prioritized topics our community said were the most important to them by completing an audit he city’s response to encampments. If city leaders do not adequately track expenses and keep reliable data for the city’s activities related to encampment response, they cannot assess the effectiveness of their efforts, be transparent with Denver residents, or ensure cleanups are performed equitably.

Other key audits completed in 2023 included an audit of police operations and staffing as well as another look at affordable housing, analyses of the Denver City Council’s operations, citywide cybersecurity-related risks, and administration of child welfare placement services.

Denver Labor took on even more responsibility for labor and wage enforcement and education this year. Our team now helps protect every worker at every income level in the city. We are analyzing more details and looking deeper into payrolls and invoices than ever before — with the continued goal of protecting Denver’s employers and workers and ensuring thousands of workers across the city receive the money they are owed.

Our team of analysts investigate of wage complaints. Through outreach, education, and investigation, our team works with both employers and workers to ensure everyone is paid according to the law. Our wage team helps keep businesses informed and city funds going out the door to contractors and workers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In 2023, we were honored to receive a 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 audit “Residential Trash, Recycling, and Compost Services.” This was the sixth Knighton Award for my administration. As a result, you can be confident that our audit reports are trustworthy and of the highest professional quality.

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 on our website.

Sincerely,

Auditor's Signature

Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA
 

2023 Audit Reports and Follow-ups

2023 Audit Reports

Administration of Child Welfare Placement Services
Audit: March 2023

Cybersecurity: Programmable Logic Controllers
Audit: March 2023

Great Hall Construction
Audit: April 2023 

Homeless Encampments
Audit: April 2023

Citywide Information Technology Purchases
Audit: May 2023

Police Operations and Staffing
Audit: June 2023

College Affordability Fund Program
Audit: July 2023

Airport Information Technology Vendor Management
Audit: September 2023

Affordable Housing
Audit: November 2023

City Council Operations
Audit: December 2023

Follow-up and Audit Impacts

Audit Services 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 through 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.

Table with recommendation implementation rates.

Caring for Denver
Follow-up: January 2023
Audit: October 2020(PDF, 2MB)

Safety and Security of City Facilities
Follow-up: February 2023
Original Audit: June 2020(PDF, 3MB)

Airport Parking Shuttle System Follow-up
Follow-up: May 2023
Original Audit: August 2021

Transparency: Public Notice and Engagement
Follow-up: May 2023
Original Audit: November 2021

Expense Report Approval Process
Follow-up: June 2023
Original Audit: November 2021

Cybersecurity: Application Security
Follow-up: July 2023
Assessment: June 2022

Peña Boulevard Improvements Construction Contract
Follow-up: August 2023
Original Audit: May 2022

Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program
Follow-up Memo: September 2023
Audit: November 2020(PDF, 8MB)

Information Technology Disaster Recovery
Follow-up: October 2023
Audit: May 2021

Airport Concessions Management
Follow-up: November 2023
Audit: February 2022

Neighborhood Food Environment Program Grant
Follow-up: December 2023
Audit: January 2022

Fair Elections Fund
Follow-up: December 2023
Audit: May 2022

Denver Art Museum
Follow-up: December 2023
Audit: January 2021

Information Technology Vendor Management
Follow-up: December 2023
Audit: September 2022

AUDIT IMPACTS

In 2023, our recommendations and findings helped city agencies make Denver an even greater place for people to live, work, and spend time. We appreciate the city leaders who take our work seriously and embrace the spirit of improvement throughout the year.

When city managers take our findings seriously, we all benefit from the improvements. We completed 14 follow-ups in 2023 of reports issued since 2020, including one cybersecurity follow-up report that did not have public recommendations and one follow-up memo that did not have individual implementation statuses.

Out of the 147 recommendations we made across all those reports, agencies fully implemented 64. This 44% full implementation rate matches the three-year average.

The Audit Services Division aims for our audit recommendations to act as tools for the new mayoral administration so city officials can continue improving each agency we audit. While much of the information in each audit and follow-up report this year was based on agencies’ work under previous city leadership, these topics should remain a priority for new city leaders in the year ahead.

Implementation of audit recommendations can have measurable and meaningful impacts in the city. For example, city leaders made progress in supporting better public notice and engagement for projects like street paving. Since the time of our 2021 “Transparency: Public Notice and Engagement” audit, several city agencies took steps in the right direction.

Engaging community members in the government’s decision-making process increases public trust and results in more effective solutions to community issues. By providing more structure and guidance around public notices and public engagement, the city can ultimately provide higher-quality services to residents and business owners.

Similarly, the Department of Public Health and Environment made notable progress toward ensuring it had a complete strategic plan, policies and procedures for grants and finances, and an annual report for the Caring for Denver program. Thanks to better oversight from the department, the program’s foundation now has documented reserve limits. Our original audit found the Caring for Denver Foundation had accumulated almost $41.5 million in unspent tax revenue. Now, the foundation has a strategic plan to determine funding priorities with clear goals, objectives, strategies, key performance indicators, and timelines.

Denver International Airport is working to sign new contracts and hold contractors more accountable for its concessions’ spaces. The airport also has a plan to address the held-over concessions contracts we identified in our audit, which were operating long past the original contracts’ end dates without new competitive processes.

However, one key recommendation from the original report was not sufficiently implemented. We hope to see further improvement in the future.

The airport has also taken some important steps for stronger monitoring of construction costs and timelines as it considers the next phases of its Peña Boulevard construction projects. The airport took action to hold contractors — and the outcomes of the construction project — more accountable.

On the other hand, failure to implement audit recommendations means the airport is still not encouraging fair competition when it comes to its parking shuttle services.

We did find the airport made progress in tracking customer complaints and ensuring a timely response to issues related to airport parking. But the airport’s Parking and Commercial Transportation Division cannot ensure its parking shuttle system contract provides maximum value to the airport — and therefore, the public — without a more competitive procurement process.

After the 2023 municipal election, we followed up on our Fair Elections Fund audit and found promising improvements.

By developing policies and procedures to administer the fund, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office staff can better ensure campaign contributions come from valid sources, that funds are paid out accurately and in a timely manner, that candidates are trained on how fund dollars should be used, and that matching public funds are spent in compliance with city ordinance and election rules. The integrity and transparency of elections is essential to all local government functions, so positive change is a benefit citywide.

When our recommendations are fully implemented, the effects can improve how the city uses its limited resources — leading to better services for the public and better equity and accessibility in city programs.

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

Audit Analytics

Leading the way

The Denver Auditor’s Office is a clear leader in innovative audit technology and techniques. The Auditor’s Office excels in several areas — including having dedicated audit analytics resources, applying analytics and continuous auditing for general risk assessment and annual planning, and reporting analytical results in various ways.

“Audit analytics” means using automation and new technologies to assess entire datasets and thousands or pieces of information in less time and in more reliable ways than through traditional techniques like random sampling. Using audit analytics improves auditors’ confidence in their conclusions.

Audit analytics differs from simply using audit software to automate more traditional audit tasks. Audit analytics:

  • Applies advanced statistics and data science tools.
  • Applies expertise to examine large datasets that describe an organization’s transactions and functions.
  • Helps identify inefficiencies, fraud, or data-quality problems.
  • Helps identify the causes and effects of issues.

Our analytical techniques are often ahead of the curve of the methods described in recent academic and professional literature.

In 2023, our team used audit analytics and continuous audit programs to look at technology purchases citywide, the use of purchase cards and travel cards, expense reports, and purchase orders, and also contributed to specific audits and projects. Audits that received data analysis, sampling, or technical support from the Audit Analytics Team this year included our analyses of the city’s College Affordability Fund Program, police operations and staffing, citywide information technology purchases, homeless encampments, affordable housing, and City Council operations.

Auditor O’Brien launched the office’s audit analytics and continuous auditing program in 2017. The Audit Analytics Team collaborates with our other audit staff to regularly work with large datasets and statistics, while safeguarding secure data.

Audit analytics is increasingly important and expected in both internal and external audit functions at private and public audit firms. As organizations move toward fully digitized financial and business processes, auditors must follow.

There are many computer languages and software programs that auditors can use to analyze data or write scripts — commands that perform a series of tests — to automate the analysis of data. Our auditors have used the computer language Python and software like Arbutus and Tableau to process data.

Using these tools, auditors in Auditor O’Brien’s office can connect to additional data sources, automate advanced analyses, and visualize results. Auditors can have more confidence in the results of these techniques because these new tools can help clean up datasets, confirm the integrity of those datasets, and assess entire populations instead of only relying on sampling.


Denver Labor - Wages Report

What We Do

Denver Labor team in 2023.

In 2023, Denver’s new Civil Wage Theft Ordinance took effect, giving us even more opportunity to help workers of all income levels.

Workers, well-intentioned employers, and Denver Labor would all prefer workers to be paid correctly from their first paycheck. We’re here to help with that process. Denver Labor closed out its reporting year with more than $2 million recovered for workers — an all-time high that helped more than 3,500 people pay their bills, support their families, and contribute to our communities.

Auditor O’Brien, Denver Labor Executive Director Matthew Fritz-Mauer, and our team of labor analysts collaborate 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. 

In 2023, members of the team held weekly trainings in both English and Spanish — and they provided other materials online and in person in multiple languages. This allows for an ongoing, inclusive, and accessible dialogue about the city’s processes.

We audit 100% of certified payrolls and investigate 100% of wage complaints. Denver Labor enforces Denver’s civil wage theft, minimum wage, and prevailing wage laws. Employers must pay the highest applicable wage rate to their workers. In 2023, the minimum wage rate in the City and County of Denver was $17.29 per hour with few exceptions, and it will increase to $18.29 per hour in 2024.

The Denver City Council’s passage of the new Civil Wage Theft Ordinance gave our office the authority to help protect workers of every pay level across the city. As a result of the new law and additional enforcement work by our skilled team of analysts, we nearly doubled our previous record of restitution returned to workers. In addition to promised pay, wage theft could include violations of minimum wage, overtime pay, paid sick time, rest breaks, and time off.

As a result of this law, our team now has requirements to collect certain damages and interest from employers for nonpayment of wages owed. This money goes directly back to the workers and factors into our final restitution amount.

 

Wage rates timeline for Denver's citywide minimum wage.

Transcript Denver Wages Timeline(PDF, 69KB)

Wage Theft and Minimum Wage

Wage theft is the failure to pay workers the full wages to which they are legally entitled. On Jan. 9, 2023, the Denver City Council passed the Civil Wage Theft Ordinance. Wage theft and minimum wage

Every worker has the right to be paid the wages they’ve earned and are entitled to. These could include — for example — the minimum wage, overtime, paid sick time, money for time a person spends working, and the wages a person is promised.

Civil wage theft happens whenever somebody is not paid the wages they’re entitled to, as promised and required by law. It is one of the most common legal violations in the country. Researchers estimate that every year, civil wage theft affects millions of people and costs tens of billions of dollars.

Minimum wage violations are a form of wage theft. Denver’s wage protections cover every worker of every income level in the City and County of Denver. High-risk industries for wage theft include construction, restaurants and bars, beauty and salon services, valet services, home care, national chains, and businesses along Denver’s borders.

Common mistakes we identified included businesses claiming the tip credit when they should not, businesses thinking they are outside Denver’s boundary when they’re not, and businesses paying a wage based on the employer’s office location instead of where the work was done.

Cases closed wage theft and minimum wage.

 

Minimum wage and wage theft case results.

 

Denver Labor’s goal is to protect Denver’s employers and workers and ensure everyone is paid according to the law. Wage theft occurs when a worker is paid less than the full wages to which they are legally entitled. It includes:

Overtime violations – failing to pay nonexempt workers less than time and a half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

Off-the-clock violations – asking workers to work off the clock before or after their shifts.

Meal break violations – denying workers the legal meal breaks.

• Illegal deductions – removing the cost of equipment, training, or other work-related expenses from workers’

paychecks.

Worker misclassification violations – misclassifying workers as independent contractors to pay a wage lower than the minimum or to avoid paying overtime.

Often, employers contract with other employers to provide services. For example, a hotel might hire a cleaning company to provide workers for janitorial services or a general contractor on a construction site might hire other employers to provide labor for electric work, plumbing, drywall installation, painting, or something else.

Our enforcement uses “up-the-chain accountability,” which means that any employer who ultimately benefits from a worker’s labor may be required to pay their wages. Denver Labor will first try to collect from someone’s direct employer.

In 2023, Denver Labor built out its team to start responding to civil wage theft complaints, in accordance with the ordinance and the newly finalized rules. Our rulemaking process included community groups and stakeholders from both labor and business organizations.

Closed minimum wage or wage theft cases by industry.

Prevailing Wage

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.

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 workers. 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 all help streamline the process. Our analysts work with employers to ensure workers 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. 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. His growing team works to bring all parties together to make Denver a good, efficient place to work. 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.

Working with Businesses and the Community

Educating and engaging with the business community is the first step in successful enforcement. Workers, well-intentioned employers, and Denver Labor would all prefer workers to be paid correctly from their first paycheck.

We work throughout the year to offer trainings, engage directly with employers, and offer resources in multiple languages to help with this process. In October, Auditor O’Brien and Denver Labor analysts also visited businesses downtown to help make sure employers were prepared for the minimum wage increase coming up on the first of the year.

Employers are required to share the mandatory bilingual work site poster with their workers. The poster is available for download on our website or hard copies are available upon request. This could include posting the notice in a physically convenient location at the work site, providing it directly to each worker, or sharing it electronically.

Visit our website for resources to help both workers and businesses navigate the city’s wage ordinances. Tools include an address finder to see whether your place of work qualifies for the citywide minimum wage, a tips tracker for the food and beverage industry, a minimum wage calculator, and a mandatory work site poster for all businesses to download.

This year, we also continued our live “Wages Wednesday” series on Facebook — in both English and Spanish. We are regularly in the community doing presentations, raising awareness, and building relationships with community groups.

We know underpayments are most commonly the result of honest mistakes, not intentional wrongdoing. As a result, we strive to prioritize education — and when we find businesses owe significant restitution, we work cooperatively to find solutions to help managers pay their workers while keeping their businesses going.

When we conduct wage theft investigations, we:

  • Receive a complaint or begin a proactive enforcement investigation.
  • Assess the complaint to ensure it meets initial investigation requirements.
  • Contact the employer to request worker, payroll, and compliance documentation.
  • Evaluate the complaint to consider all information provided by any complainant and the employer.
  • Determine underpayment, fines, and damages and inform both parties of any restitution that might be required.
  • Resolve the complaint.

Once the employer provides evidence of a completed restitution payment, the case is closed. If no restitution was required, the case will be closed. When there is not sufficient evidence, the case is referred to another agency for investigation or to an outside firm for collection of restitution.

Employers are required to keep payroll documentation for three years for all past and current workers. The documentation should include the number of hours worked, the hourly wage paid to each worker, any deductions made from worker wages including taxes, and the net amount of wages each worker received.

Our office’s proactive enforcement approach to launching a wage investigation can include on-site visits to speak with at-risk workers.

Criteria that could lead to proactive enforcement include:

  • Prior violations by a business owner.
  • A pattern of noncompliance within an industry.
  • Credible information from a state or federal agency.
  • Data indicating an employer is likely violating the minimum wage law.

Employers may pay less than the minimum wage if they are in the food and beverage industry and their workers receive actual tips of at least $3.02 per hour. To claim the full tip credit, employers must keep documentation showing workers received at least $3.02 per hour in tips. Employers of unemancipated minors performing work as part of a certified youth employment program can pay those minors 15% less than the minimum wage.

Employers on prevailing wage projects in the City and County of Denver are required to submit their certified payrolls every two weeks in the LCPtracker system. Our analysts audit 100% of payrolls. Current wage determinations for all classifications are available on our website. We also offer tutorial videos and an LCPtracker setup form on our website to help contractors get started on each project.

We encourage any employer who is unsure about how to stay compliant with the law to let us know. Call or email our team — our analysts are happy to help.

 

Steps of an investigation.

Restitution Stories

Here are some examples of how we worked with both employers and workers this year to recover unpaid wages in accordance with the wage theft, minimum wage, and prevailing wage ordinances:

Proactive enforcement results in $70,531 for valet workers

Denver Labor started a proactive enforcement investigation for a valet company in Denver. Upon receiving payroll records and conducting an audit, our team noticed the business was applying the tip credit, which is allowed only in the food and beverage industry. The company wanted to make things right and cooperated with our team to return unpaid wages to its workers. The case ended with Denver Labor helping recover $70,531.53 in restitution for 60 workers.

Denver uses up-the-chain accountability to recover workers’ wages

Denver’s Civil Wage Theft Ordinance adopts an “up-the-chain accountability” approach. This means any employer who ultimately benefits from a worker’s labor may be required to pay their wages. Denver Labor’s prevailing wage team notified the civil wage theft team of a city subcontractor that did not pay its workers restitution for the work they performed. Our teams collaborated and applied the “up-the chain accountability” approach to the primary contractor for the project. Our office educated the company on its responsibilities with subcontractors and the Civil Wage Theft Ordinance, including how this ordinance also applies to the City and County of Denver’s prevailing wage projects. The primary contractor understood and promptly paid restitution of $5,722.82 for seven workers.

Underpaid janitorial workers receive $31,495.52

Since Denver’s Citywide Minimum Wage Ordinance took effect, Denver Labor has identified the janitorial industry as an industry at high risk of underpayments. Our minimum wage team started a proactive enforcement investigation of the janitorial company Maintenance Resources.

After conducting a payroll audit, we discovered the business had not been paying Denver’s minimum wage since 2020. The employer was cooperative and paid its workers immediately after receiving our calculations of the underpayment. As a result of the investigation, our office recovered $31,495.52 in restitution for 29 janitorial workers.

Denver Labor recovers $334,211 for remote workers

Our office received a wage complaint because 24-7 Intouch was not paying remote workers who live and work in the City and County of Denver the correct minimum wage. Our team educated the employer on Denver’s Minimum Wage Ordinance and how it applies to work performed within the geographic limits of the City and County of Denver. The employer worked with our office and corrected the workers’ wages. As a result of our work, our team recovered $334,211.23 for 161 workers.

Starbucks owed wages for after-work hours

No case is too small for our office. Denver Labor received a wage complaint after Starbucks required its workers at two locations in Denver to perform work duties off the clock. After an investigation, our civil wage theft team determined these Starbucks locations owed wages to three workers for one to two hours of work. In total, our team recovered $184.24 for three workers.

A national pet supply store adjusts pay rate to comply with Denver’s minimum wage

Denver Labor conducted a proactive investigation of a national pet supply chain that shares geographic bounds with another county to ensure the company’s workers earned at least Denver’s minimum wage. In some instances, our team found the business was not paying the correct wage rate.

We educated the employer on the minimum wage requirements for the City and County of Denver, and 26 workers received $1,909.89 for 5,666 hours worked.

Custodial workers at the zoo recover $10,000

A contractor at the Denver Zoo was underpaying its custodial workers because they were classified as laborers. The Prevailing Wage Ordinance requires contractors to classify their workers based on the tasks they perform. Denver Labor noticed the mistake and helped recover $10,000 for 35 workers.

Apprentices at the airport receive $30,000 in unpaid wages

Denver’s Prevailing Wage Ordinance requires apprentices to work with journeymen at a one-to-one radio, which means one apprentice to one journeyman for all hours worked on city construction projects. A contractor at Denver International Airport did not comply with this requirement by employing more apprentices than journeymen. After Denver Labor’s investigation, the employer had to pay the corrected journeymen rate to the apprentices. As a result, 31 workers received over $30,000 in restitution.

Read more examples of successful restitution cases 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.

Wages recovered by Denver Labor as of August 4, 2023.

 

This graph shows Denver’s unpaid wages recovered by the labor division of the Denver Auditor’s Office by year. 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. In 2022, Denver Labor recovered $1,101,737.73. In 2023, Denver Labor recovered $2,043,086.

 
Minimum Wage and Civil Wage Theft Results

 $334,449.98 

1,863

404

0

Largest dollar amount recovered in a single wage theft investigation.

Total number of workers who received restitution
under wage theft or minimum wage ordinances.

Largest number of employees helped as a result of a
single wage theft or minimum wage investigation.

Repeat minimum wage or
wage theft offenders.

 

Prevailing Wage Results

 533 

 $115,899.17 

1,707

77 

Total cases with restitution. Largest dollar amount recovered
in a single investigation.
Workers who
received restitution.

Workers impacted by a single
investigation, the largest number.


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. On every audit, each Audit Services team works to provide in-depth analysis of city systems, programs, and processes. We work to achieve our annual Audit Plan goals using comprehensive risk assessments, with an emphasis on social equity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Our wage analysts work with employers and employees to find cooperative solutions using creative problem-solving and detailed examination of payrolls. Both divisions of the office are leaders in the nation for their work.

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.

This year, he was honored by the continued broad coalition of support he received from the community that led to his reelection to a third term as Denver Auditor. Over the last eight years, he has advocated for all Denverites as an independent, professional government watchdog. He is committed to continuing to serve everyone who cares about Denver in his final term.

In 2023, Auditor O’Brien continued to serve on the U.S. Comptroller General’s Advisory Council on Government Auditing Standards where he shares his expertise and helps shape future auditing standards for auditors across the country. The advisory council gives input for updates to the standards, also known as the “Yellow Book.” Denver’s Auditor is required by city charter to follow these standards. The Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards include “requirements for audit reports, professional qualifications for auditors, and audit organization quality control. Auditors of federal, state, and local government programs use these standards to perform their audits and produce their reports.”

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 Director Dawn Wiseman, to ensure the quality and impact of our work. We completed performance, financial, information technology, analytics, and compliance audit work.

Our teams diligently provide in-depth analysis of city systems, programs, contracts, finances, and processes, depending on the objective 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 2023, we were proud to accept another Knighton Exemplary Award from the Association of Local Government Auditors, making our audit of Denver’s residential trash, recycling, and compost services one of the best local government audits in the United States and Canada. This is the sixth Knighton Award for Auditor O’Brien’s administration. While we perform our work on behalf of everyone who cares about Denver — not just to win awards — national recognition from our peers validates our methods, professionalism, and results.

The prestigious Knighton Awards recognize the best work from local government auditing offices each year. Top award winners must demonstrate that their work has a potential for significant impact; has persuasive, logical, and firmly supported conclusions; has recommendations will make programs more efficient and effective; and that 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 that earned recognition for this award-winning audit through their intensive efforts included Audit Manager Karole Dachelet, Lead Auditor Tyson Faussone, Lead Auditor Caitlin Casassa, Audit Analytics Manager and Methodologist Dr. Samuel Gallaher, Audit Analytics Senior Heather Burger, and Audit Director Dawn Wiseman.

Our office had three members who volunteered to serve on a governing committee and participate in leadership roles with the Association of Local Government Auditors. Audit Director Dawn Wiseman was chairperson of the Professional Issues Committee, Lead Auditor June Samadi was a member of the Digital Strategy Committee, and Senior Communication and Reporting Specialist Kristen Clark served as the communications liaison for the association. Kristen Clark also gave three presentations at the Association of Local Government Auditors’ annual conference: two plain language workshops and a concurrent session on effective communication.

Senior Audit Manager Sonia Montano began serving at the federal level on the Comptroller General’s Advisory Council on Standards for Internal Control. She is helping to revise and update the Government Accountability Office’s standards for internal control — further extending our office’s prominence as leaders in these areas across the country.

Members of our audit division also participated in professional conferences to further their education and expertise. Members of audit teams also presented at conferences, including Audit Manager Kharis Eppstein, Lead Auditor June Samadi, and Lead Auditor Anna Hansen who presented the results of our “Mental Health Services in Denver’s Jail Systems” audit to the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General and Office of Audit Services.

Senior Communication and Reporting Specialist Kristen Clark also served on the Communications and Publication Committee for ACES: The Society for Editing and gave training presentations for auditors across the country.

Our 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 audit analytics and continuous auditing techniques also remain some of the most advanced in the country, and we are proud to continue to develop more efficient ways to monitor and report on city risks.

Outstanding Staff

Our staff comprises many talented, well-educated, and hard-working people. Our team continues to work 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 as a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors’ Denver board.

Information Systems Auditor Senior Dave Hancock recently passed the Certified Information Systems Manager certification, adding to the resources on our team for cybersecurity audit work — a key priority of Auditor O’Brien’s.

Our Emergency Response Team helped keep members of our office safe and healthy this year with the leadership and support of emergency response coordinators Kharis Eppstein and Tyson Faussone and committee members Edyie Thompson, Rafael Gongón, Vilma Balnyte, Nicholas Jimroglou, Isabelle Puppa, and Daniel Summers.

Our New Employee Onboarding Committee also continued to welcome new staff into a hybrid virtual work environment. Committee members included Edyie Thompson, Amy Overzet, Emily Owens Gerber, Kharis Eppstein, Cyndi Lubrano, Valerie Walling, Tayler Overschmidt, Kristin McCormack, Nicholas Jimroglou, Dawn Wiseman, and Ranea Taylor.

Learn more about staff here


Denver Auditor's Office 

Who We Are

The mission of the Auditor’s Office is to deliver independent, transparent, and professional oversight 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 leaders. He works independently from the Mayor’s Office and the City Council to maintain objectivity and offer frank, truthful reports for the betterment of Denver. Auditor O’Brien was reelected to his third term in 2023.

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.

Under the Auditor’s direction, the Audit Services Division performs risk-based performance, financial, information technology, and contract compliance audits that deliver value and impact for Denver and conform to the highest professional standards. We produce impactful, objective, and quality audits that strengthen evolving city operations and services, and we foster an internal culture of innovation, continuous improvement, and inclusion and engagement.

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 as it relates to audit access.

Denver Labor, a division of the Auditor’s Office, promotes lawful employment and wage compliance while providing exceptional labor, wage, and hourly enforcement. We educate workers, businesses, and the community. And we enforce Denver’s wage and hour laws fairly and thoroughly, using the most effective tools and strategies available.

Auditor O’Brien and his team work with both employers and workers 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 Auditor is chairman of the Audit Committee, whose primary task is to annually commission an independent external audit of Denver’s financial statements. In addition, results of audits produced by Audit Services are presented to the Audit Committee. To ensure the committee’s independence, the mayor, members of the Denver City Council, and Auditor O’Brien each appoint two members to four-year terms.

Auditor O’Brien is licensed in Colorado as a certified public accountant, or CPA. He also has a master’s in business administration from the University of Colorado. He is a chartered financial analyst and chartered global management accountant. He has more than 40 years of auditing and accounting experience — including 11 years serving as the state auditor — which he uses to ensure Denver taxpayers’ dollars are used efficiently and effectively.

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, including specific grant programs’ oversight and compliance — to identify errors in reporting and payments and other risks to the city and its reputation. Contract compliance audits determine whether a third-party vendor and city agencies are 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 working correctly.

Among the key audits we completed in 2023 was a look at how the city responds to homeless encampments. Denver was likely underestimating how much it spent on responding to homeless encampments and leaders were not ensuring individuals had equitable access to retrieve their belongings after large-scale cleanups. We made several recommendations for tracking spending, ensuring equitable access, and having appropriate staffing. The new mayoral administration has significantly changed the city’s approach to encampment response since the time of this audit.

We also looked at Denver International Airport’s oversight of the Great Hall project. Leaders’ lax approach to construction oversight continued to put it at risk of overspending, a lack of transparency, and unfair contracting.

Our audit found insufficient oversight from the start of the reimagined project — which was exposing the airport to continued overspending. Airport managers need to strengthen their management and oversight of the Great Hall project to ensure the best value for the city. 

In another key audit, we found that without overall strategic guidance, a formalized community policing strategy, a clear understanding of low retention, and improved recruiting efforts that encourage diversity among officers, the Denver Police Department could continue to struggle with developing the strong partnerships necessary for public trust. We hope our recommendations will help protect and improve the safety, health, and wellness of both police officers and members of our community.

Later in the year, we looked at the city’s oversight of affordable housing and found serious concerns related to too much trust in third-party partners and shortfalls on promises made to the community. Denver was not doing enough to ensure safe and habitable spaces at affordable housing properties, and the city was not ensuring taxpayer-funded affordable housing projects were fully delivering on promised units.

We perform a follow-up assessment 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 addressed 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.

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, finances, and operations, input from community members, information from city leaders, current events, regulatory changes, and other factors.

You can read all our 2023 audit reports and the 2024 Audit Plan on DenverGov.org/Auditor.

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, and review the results of the 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.

The Audit Committee also receives the results of audits, assessments, and examinations performed or commissioned by Audit Services, a division of the Auditor’s Office.

Audit Committee Members

  • Jack Blumenthal, Vice-Chairman (appointed by Auditor O’Brien)
  • Frank Rowe (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)

Prevailing Wage Administration

The Denver Auditor’s Office has enforced prevailing wage rates on city projects since the 1950s, but in 2023, the Denver City Council tasked our office with also setting those wage rates for contractors and subcontractors.

The new prevailing wage administrator position is independent from Denver Labor and reports directly to the Auditor. Luis Osorio is the first member of our team to hold the position.

Denver’s Prevailing Wage Ordinance requires employers to pay specific wage rates depending on the type and location of work for city contracts and public projects. The prevailing wage administrator takes over the wage-setting work for construction, improvement, repair, maintenance, demolition, and janitorial work. Some positions in these classifications had not seen pay increases in years.

This new position is intended to help make the process of setting and reviewing prevailing wage rates stronger and more efficient. The administrator uses a flexible approach to set prevailing wage rates and issue clarifications and interpretations of the prevailing wage. In this way, businesses will have clarity and workers will have pay rates competitive for the market.

By streamlining the inspection and clarification process in the Auditor’s Office, we can better help the people of Denver live, work, and raise a family here.

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 as it relates to audit access.

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 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 the city’s oversight of these contracts.

Auditor O’Brien believes the city has a responsibility to keep a close watch on contracts to ensure third parties uphold their agreements and spend taxpayer dollars as promised.

Community Outreach

We continuously explore new ways to reach members of the community where they are and in ways that matter to them. We clearly communicate the value and impact of audit work and wage ordinances with everyone who cares about Denver. We seek to increase community awareness and support for Auditor’s Office work by communicating impact and value with clarity, accessibility, and inclusion.

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 visiting us on our website, on social media, or in person at community events and trainings throughout the year.

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.

We continue to emphasize equitable access to our work by offering material in multiple languages, conducting live trainings in English and Spanish, using plain language in our audit reports, and focusing on accessibility tools for our website and reports.

The Auditor also continues to emphasize visual media and outreach through an ongoing initiative to bring information about auditing and wage enforcement to YouTube and local television through Denver8 TV. Watch our monthly broadcasts of “Ask the Auditor” episodes and our live “Wages Wednesday” training sessions on Facebook.

Through digital, radio, television, newspaper, and community signage projects, we reached hundreds of thousands of people this past year with information about wage theft and audit results. Our English and Spanish outreach targeted neighborhoods across the city and some of the most high-risk industries and locations.

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.

Contact us in English or Spanish

Email: Auditor@DenverGov.org
Email: WageComplaints@DenverGov.org

 

PRIORITIES THIS YEAR

•  Language and disability access.
•  Community events, live trainings, and meetings.
•  Authentic and engaging social media updates.
•  Plain language and visual content.
•  Collaboration with the community.
•  Diversity of outreach and platforms.
•  Consistent and meaningful engagement and reach on social media.
•  “Ask the Auditor” episodes on YouTube and Denver8 TV.
•  Digital and traditional awareness marketing.
•  Monthly email newsletter in English and Spanish. 


 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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