Troubled Portland Bureau Didn't Track Credit-Card Spending

Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement managers and staff have failed to account for $120,471.95 in credit-card expenditures since March 2016. In all, 33 ONI staffers have access to city-issued credit cards, as did former bureau director Amalia Alarcón de Morris, who resigned last month. City staffers are required to submit all receipts for purchases every month, but ONI as a bureau has failed to account for its staff's spending in 11 of the past 12 months. Interim ONI director David Austin, who has been on the job since March 22, took the unusual step of asking all 33 staff members to turn in their credit cards April 4. Austin says there's "no indication" of any spending improprieties at this point. "We knew there were some issues with the bureau," he says. "This is not an exercise. This is the new order of the day." In January, Mayor Ted Wheeler reassigned the troubled bureau from City Commissioner Amanda Fritz to Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. Fritz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Charges Reduced Over Glasses Removal

A City Hall protester charged with two felonies for removing a man's eyeglasses and handing them to a security guard in a scuffle outside the Portland Building last week had his charges reduced April 3, after activist groups and news organizations, including WW, raised questions about the facts of the case. The arrested protester, Philip "Standard" Schaefer, 45, is a local poet and spokesman for the citizen advocacy group Empower Portland, which successfully lobbied the City Council earlier this month to change Portland Fire & Rescue's policy toward embedding with Portland Police Bureau crowd-control officers. Schaefer came to police attention March 29, when he scuffled with a man who was trying to push past protesters and enter the Portland Building. The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office reduced the initial charges of coercion and robbery in the second degree—the latter being a Measure 11 crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, 10 months—to third-degree robbery. Schaefer told WW he could not yet comment on his case.

House Bill Would Ban Poker Rooms

Portland poker rooms are under siege again, this time in Salem. As WW reported recently, poker rooms in the city operate in violation of local and state laws. On March 29, the House Business and Labor Committee held a hearing on House Bill 2190, which would prohibit for-profit businesses from running poker games. The bill would shut down popular venues such as Portland Meadows and Final Table, the city's largest poker clubs, and it drew testimony from a couple dozen interested parties. The bill remains in committee. Meanwhile, Portland Meadows and Final Table are preparing for a high-stakes hearing with the Portland Revenue Bureau on April 17. Joe Mabe, a lawyer representing those two businesses, told legislators that prohibition won't work. "Instead of running for the hills and saying let's just not allow it," Mabe testified, "more regulation is welcomed, and needed."