DENVER – The Denver Botanic Gardens has made great strides in addressing concerns from last year’s audit and implemented most of Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien’s recommendations, according to a new follow-up report.
“I am pleased the Gardens took the majority of our recommendations to heart,” Auditor O’Brien said. “Security and safety at this beloved city attraction are of the highest importance.”
In July 2018, the Auditor released a report with 25 recommendations regarding safety, risk management, volunteer oversight, IT systems, and board governance. The Gardens fully implemented 19 recommendations, partially implemented four, and did not implement two.
The wide-ranging audit found inconsistent safety and security policies across Gardens locations. The audit team also found inaccurate records on volunteers and background checks.
At the time of follow-up, the audit team found Gardens management made progress in developing risk management plans to address safety, security, public events, and volunteers. The Gardens established plans to address the likelihood and impact of alcohol, cash handling, weather, lost children, and traffic at both the York Street and Chatfield Farms locations.
“The families and residents of Denver are our priority,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The progress at the Gardens shows a commitment to the public’s safety and a willingness to take in feedback and make improvements.”
However, in order to fully complete this particular recommendation, the Botanic Gardens will need to assess how risks interact and also update some irrelevant policies and strategies. Using data is important to help determine the likelihood of a risk at a specific event and could help further mitigate risks.
The audit team also found Gardens management reviewed and updated emergency procedures, including developing an incident report template and providing training to security officers.
The Botanic Gardens continues to work with the neighboring community and updated its large-event agreement with the Neighborhood Advisory Committee. The revision clearly defines amplified and large events, including how loud an event can get, and lists the specific events subject to the agreement. The revision also addresses neighborhood concerns about parking and traffic during large events, including actively encouraging visitors to use other means of transportation.
Management also developed new policies for background checks of its volunteers, including when background checks require further review. The Gardens even voluntarily retroactively applied some of their policies to existing volunteers, specifically those who work in child-specific areas. While there are some areas where risk mitigation could be strengthened, especially when alcohol or children are involved, assessing how risks interact and using data could help complete this recommendation.
The Gardens also created IT policies based on national standards and improved the physical security of its servers and equipment. However, there is still some room for improvement to bring the server room in line with national standards.
The first recommendation the Gardens did not implement involved the Gardens’ business continuity and disaster recovery plans. However, the audit team found evidence that the Gardens has created a project plan to create both a business continuity and disaster recovery plan before the end of the year.
The second recommendation not implemented called for better documentation of enforcement of conflicts of interest on the Botanic Gardens Board of Trustees. The board updated its bylaws to require a conflict-of-interest disclosure annually but did not lay out a plan for enforcement if those forms are not completed. It is possible the board is more actively ensuring these forms are collected and all active members have submitted their forms for 2019. However, the process should be documented to ensure it continues in years to come.
“Completion of these recommendations will be the final step in real improvements at the Botanic Gardens,” Auditor O’Brien said. “The Gardens clearly took our advice and is still working to complete a few steps, but I am encouraged by the progress.”