May 12th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Environment, Politics, PDX Votes

Multnomah County District Attorney Won't Investigate Sewer Building

news1-willcorwin3Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant services facility

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill will not investigate allegations of contracting violations on a $12.6 million Bureau of Environmental Services office that tripled in cost.

Underhill's office sent a letter this afternoon to backers of a ballot initiative that would remove control of Portland's water and sewer utilities from City Hall.

It says his office will wait to see the outcome of an audit performed by City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade.

"My office is making no comment and taking no position on either the allegations raised or the potential outcome of the city auditor's investigation," Underhill writes.

City Commissioner Nick Fish asked asked Griffin-Valade to add the building to a procurement audit after WW revealed how it had tripled in price.

Kent Craford and Floy Jones, co-petitioners on Ballot Measure 26-156, asked for a criminal investigation following a story by KOIN-TV reporter Dan Tilkin that the city's top architect on the project left to work for contractor Skylab Architecture late last year.

"We're disappointed to hear that the DA is deferring to the auditor," Craford tells WW, "as City Council's past practice has been to thumb their noses at these good but toothless audits. My expectation is that Commissioner Fish will sweep this scandal under the $5,202 rug."

Fish says he's happy Underhill rejected what he called "political grandstanding" by Craford and Jones.

"We're pleased that DA Underhill has deferred this issue to the auditor, who at our request is doing an unprecedented audit of a specific project," Fish says.

"Ironically, if Mr. Craford had his way, the auditor would no longer serve as the independent auditor of our utilities—which is one of the reasons Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade has come out strongly against this measure."

WW examined in April how the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant services facility rose from $3.2 million to $11.4 million in price, thanks to cost overruns and silent approvals by the City Council. The price tag on the building is now $12.6 million, city officials say.

 
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