A consultant hired at $200 an hour by the Portland Development Commission in part for his financial expertise has filed three times for bankruptcy, leaving a trail of unpaid-and unhappy-creditors.
Last July, PDC contracted with consultant Anthony Harris to provide executive coaching to top PDC executive Wyman Winston and to complete "World Class," an ambitious project designed to "focus on Portland's global competitiveness compared to other cities."
Harris eventually billed PDC $131,000 for his work, more than double the original $50,000 contract. (See "Put Me In, Coach, I'm Ready to Pay," WW, May 18, 2005.)
Turns out Harris needs the money-badly. A review of public records shows that he filed for personal bankruptcy in 2001. Then, in April 2004, he filed for another version of bankruptcy, just two months before winning his PDC contract. That filing was dismissed, but Harris then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last December.
That last filing contained some eyebrow-raising information for a man who makes his living advising government agencies and nonprofit social-service providers (in addition to PDC, Harris has done work locally for the Portland Housing Center and Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare).
Harris failed to pay nearly $275,000 to the IRS between 2001 (when he filed personal bankruptcy) and 2004. He failed to pay $20,000 in income taxes to the state of Oregon over the same period and failed to pay an unspecified amount to Multnomah County.
At the time he was beginning his work for PDC, records show, his half-million-dollar home in Forest Heights was in foreclosure and several unpaid former employees and contractors were chasing Harris through the courts and making wage claims at the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
"My clients are upset because Mr. Harris lives in a house worth more than $500,000, makes $100,000 annually and, because he fails to pay taxes, he can hide in bankruptcy court and not pay them," says Aaron Baker, a Portland lawyer who represents two former Harris employees owed nearly $50,000 since 2003.
Winston, PDC's number-two exec, defended Harris' hiring at PDC in an earlier interview. "His knowledge and in-depth experience was the basis for awarding the contract," Winston told WW. "[Harris had] wide-ranging expertise in global customer-service systems, mergers and acquisitions, organizational development, leadership development, and finance."
Morgan Stewart, a 2003 Reed College graduate who Harris owes nearly $10,000-including $500 of her own money she spent on office supplies-is more succinct. "He's a smooth talker," she says of the man who provided her first full-time job.
"It's ironic that our tax dollars are going to someone who does not pay taxes," Stewart adds. "You'd think something like that would be hard to miss.
Winston said Thursday that he did not know about Harris' financial situation. "We do not normally do background checks for work like this," Winston says.