A House bill to reform the payment of awards in class action lawsuits survived stiff opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will now proceed to the Senate floor for a vote. House Bill 4143 would require companies that lose such lawsuits to pay all the money they owe and would raise millions of dollars in legal-aid funding for low-income Oregonians (see âCollecting Whatâs Owed,â WW, Feb. 19, 2014). âNow members of the Senate will have a chance to join the House in doing whatâs right,â says one of the billâs co-sponsors, Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland).
Three employees of the Oregon Construction Contractors Board have been placed on indefinite leave following the abrupt retirement of the agencyâs director, according the CCBâs interim director, Berri Leslie. The Oregonian reported that former agency director Craig Smith retired Feb. 13. Smithâs sudden departure and the suspension of the three employeesâTraci Barnett, Bill Ridgway and Rich Blankâfollow a state investigation of what Berri says was a complaint about âinappropriate workplace behavior.â The three employees declined to comment.
Baruti Artharee, former police liaison for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, appeared on local public-access television last week to level incendiary charges against African-American leaders he says conspired to destroy him. Artharee was suspended by Hales for a week last July after making sexually suggestive remarks about County Commissioner Loretta Smith at a public dinner event. In his Feb. 16 appearance on Oregon Voterâs Digest, Artharee said the scandal was the work of âpuppet mastersâ in the black community. He singled out Roy Jay, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon. âIf you try to commit a drive-by,â Artharee said, âand you donât take your subject out, you better be prepared to deal with consequences.â Artharee claimed he has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a program run by Jay and Multnomah County to expunge criminal records for minor offenses. âBaruti Artharee is mistaken and looking for a scapegoat,â Jay tells WW. âI have instructed my legal team to explore a $50 million defamation and slander lawsuit against Mr. Artharee.â
A coalition of county, city and nonprofit agencies established to combat underage and problem drinking is seeking a refund for $60,000 worth of high-tech ID scanners they purchased for downtown Portland bars and clubs. Unaware of a state law passed in 2009 that regulates such scanners, Portland police encouraged Old Town bar owners to use the devices, which upload customersâ names, ages and photos to a central database (see âRecording Everything,â WW, Feb. 12, 2014). Bars shared some of that data with police as part of criminal investigations. âNow that weâve found out that these machines cannot legally be used in Oregon,â says Multnomah County spokesman David Austin, âweâd like to get our money back.â