Len Raphael 
Member since Oct 22, 2011

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Recent Comments

Re: “Fourth Ex-City Worker Alleges Oakland Auditor Abuse

Non-disclosure agreements should not be allowed for settlements with public officials or agencies that are paid for by the government or public agency. The voters need to know the allegations so they can make their decision of who was right or wrong at the ballot box.

Len Raphael, CPA

Posted by Len Raphael on 11/14/2017 at 10:32 PM

Re: “Friday’s Briefing: OUSD Overspent by Millions on Admin and Consultants; Half of Bay Area Renters Are ‘Economically Burdened’

Before making any cuts to the already stressed local schools, the OUSD Board should order the new Supt. to send out layoff notices to every HQ employee and notify consultants/constants of an economic emergency that will require re-negotiation if they want to do business with OUSD in the future.

OUSD should hurry up and fill the CFO and Internal Auditor positions that have been vacant for over a year.

Find your board member. Call AND email them before they've decided how they will vote in two weeks.


Len Raphael, CPA

Posted by Len Raphael on 11/11/2017 at 8:50 PM

Re: “Entire Oakland City Council Declined to Cross Union Picket Line for Mayor Schaaf's State of the City Speech

Based on the City's response to my August 2017 public record request for a recent salary survey of all city employees, at least the SEIU 21 job categories covered by the survey are under-compensated. The survey did not cover compensation for fire and police.


Without a full copy of the survey, it's hard to evaluate the objectivity or accuracy of the survey. Several years ago the City posted a comprehensive survey that showed most City employees were at the top of the pay chart for the Bay Area. It no longer looks that way.

We need the City to post a full, comprehensive compensation survey. if they don't have one, the City should pay for one so we all know what the situation is.

Some of the city unions have staff that know the city's budget details better than many city staffers. If the city unions have figured out what costs we could cut without cutting important services, they should tell us. If they know that the city has to raise fees, sales tax, business tax, and parcel taxes, they should give us that info also.

If the city unions want to play the traditional union vs employer strategies of strikes, sickouts, and slow-downs, they're going to lose the support of city residents

Len Raphael, CPA

Posted by Len Raphael on 11/03/2017 at 9:56 PM

Re: “A Towering Scam

Michael, my point is that City would get higher tax revenues from many other types of businesses than the HQ of a transportation company. While I think the Oakland business tax structure should be an even playing that doesn't tax one type of business differently from another, that ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Len Raphael on 10/30/2017 at 10:24 PM

Re: “A Towering Scam

Uber always hedged it bet on whether the Oakland building acquisition was just a real estate investment to be flipped or their new HQ. Uber's internal problems might have had something to do with final decision, but Oakland factors even less.

Uber would have brought jobs, some sales and business tax and property tax revenue, but because of Oakland's business tax on transportation businesses headquarters, it looked like Uber would have only paid business tax on the revenue directly from Oakland activity, a tiny fraction of it's total gross receipts.

Posted by Len Raphael on 10/29/2017 at 10:30 AM

Re: “Watching the Watchdog

Before the 2014 election Daniel Bornstein of the EBT conducted the EBT's endorsement interview. When Mr. Bornstein asked us about our platforms, Ms. Roberts launched into her stump speech about applying the highest CPA professional standards to the Auditor Office. Mr. Bornstein presciently cut her off by saying that all those CPA professional standards and ethics didn't help in the Enron and other auditing scandals.

Those professional standards/ethics of independence and objectivity don't mean diddly without the threat of SEC enforcement actions and shareholder lawsuits against CPA's who fail to audit businesses aggressively and independently. In the government sphere, the only practical threat an elected City Auditor faces is from the voters at re-election time.

Consider removing the City Charter requirement that candidates for City Auditor must be either CPAs or Certified Internal Auditors. (anecdotally one of our prior Auditors got that requirement inserted in the Charter to eliminate potential opponents) Plenty of other city's and states have elected effective Auditors and Treasurers who don't have those professional licenses. Removing those requirements would give voters a wider choice and could generate more voter attention.

Section 403 of the City Charter gives the job description of the broad powers of the City Auditor. https://library.municode.com/ca/oakland/co…

A 2007 City Attorney opinion lays out the very broad investigative power of the CIty Auditor. http://www.oaklandcityattorney.org/PDFS/Op…

In the last twenty years, we've never elected a City Auditor who took full advantage of the powers of their office to scrutinize the operations of our city government.

Posted by Len Raphael on 10/24/2017 at 11:39 AM

Re: “Watching the Watchdog

Apart from the failings of our current City Auditor, it helps to consider that of the last 4 City Auditors, only one of the them, Courtney Ruby, even came close to scrutinizing the politically powerful. I see her report on pension funding problems the high point of her term in office. The report was issued, Ruby publicized it well, spoke before Council, and that was the end of it. She gave it a good try and then gave up in the face of an unreceptive City Council and an electorate that was more concerned with how to save for their own retirements than worry about how the city would pay for its retirement obligations.

Roland Smith's most controversial audit was questioning the car allowances given to city officials.

Before Smith we had Norma Lau. Ms. Lau was elected to 5 terms in office. People often talk of the "beloved" Norma Lau. A former staff member of hers explained that Norma Lau often told him that to survive as Auditor you have "to go along, to get along." I asked him about the OPD overtime audit I had heard her office performed. He said it was effectively a whitewash.

Interesting thing is that Ms Roberts did hire some very "heavy" internal auditors, such as the former head of Kaiser's internal audit dept. The mystery is why Ms. Roberts would hire someone like that but not give them free rein to do their job.

I'm not sure what the long-term solution is to give our City Auditors the backbone to audit the heck out of city operations and contracts. Making it an appointed position under the City Administrator or Mayor would make any Auditor, even more, risk averse. Making Auditor a civil service position is worth considering but also guarantees the Auditor won't be answerable to the voters. It doesn't guarantee that they'll aggressively audit and earn the trust of potential whistleblowers that their tips won't get sent to the round file. Raising the compensation of the Auditor to that of the City Attorney is part of the solution to attracting qualified candidates. It's a lot to expect a successful CPA or Internal Auditor upper manager from private industry to take a job that pays less than private industry and rewards aggressive auditing with 0 job security.

(MJ, if I got the facts wrong about the procedures of the County Democrat endorsement process, blame my ignorance of the opaque process. I naively thought both of us would go to the full group, and get grilled about issues and platforms. That didn't happen. When Ms. Roberts turn came first, out came something like "I'm proud and gratified to be endorsed by...." and she rattled off virtually every well known elected local Democratic official. Ms. Roberts ignored the questions and repeated something irrelevant about how she supported Women's Rights and Equal Opportunity. I watched the delegates nod their approval automatically. I was disappointed and knew I was a dead man walking, but I kept on campaigning and educating voters about the issues. Plus I enjoyed talking with voters and learning a lot about Oakland issues from them. A couple of years after my route, I went back and ran for a seat on the Dem Central Comm. as a Berniecrat with a platform of requiring endorsed candidates to support repeal of the police officers bill of rights. I had thought people were uninformed about the job of Auditor. I found they were even less informed about the role of the Dem Central Comm. )

Len Raphael, CPA

Posted by Len Raphael on 10/13/2017 at 2:32 AM

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