State audit shows Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is advancing constitutional goals

SALEM, Oregon – A recent audit by the Oregon Secretary of State Audits Division showed that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is appropriately evaluating, awarding, monitoring and tracking grant expenditures. The findings are outlined in the report By Appropriately Administering Measure 76 Funds, Oregon Is Advancing Constitutional Goals for State Parks and Natural Resources.

OPRD manages a wide range of grant programs to help communities provide and improve local outdoor recreation and protect heritage resources. While some rely on federal or state gas tax funds, voters twice approved dedicating a share of the Oregon Lottery to support parks, most recently through Measure 76 in 2010. Auditors found OPRD appropriately administers Oregon Lottery funds (Measure 76 funds) and had no recommendations to offer. While new grant awards were suspended in 2020 due to an expected revenue shortfall prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak, more than $6.5 million in Lottery funds were awarded to communities in 2019.

“I’m extremely proud of our Grants program staff and their work to be accountable with Lottery Funds and uphold the public trust,” said Lisa Sumption, director of OPRD. “The audit findings are well-earned. It’s rare that an audit returns to a state agency with a positive review and no recommendations for improvements.”

Sumption credited Grants and Community Programs Manager Michele Scalise, Grant Coordinator Mark Cowan, Financial Services Manager Rebecca Jasso, Accountant Svetlana Evans and Budget Manager Tanya Crane with their work during the audit. The process began in January 2020 and included interviews and submitting reams of documentation. Typically, auditors come to the office and set up for a month or so, but the pandemic forced a virtual approach.

“The audit affirms that we are evaluating, awarding and monitoring grants effectively. This means that the processes we have in place are working as intended by Measure 76 — we’re effectively getting grants out to local communities for outdoor recreation purposes,” Scalise said. “This is due to our grant staff, committees and application process.”

Under Measure 76, the Parks and Natural Resources Fund receives 15% of net Lottery proceeds to support parks projects and natural resource protection and restoration and is distributed among six agencies, including OPRD and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.