CIVIC LIFE OFFICE IN TURMOIL: Portland City ombudsman Margie Sollinger this week released documents to WW showing an "unprecedented" number of complaints last year by employees at the Office of Civic and Community Life. Sollinger asked for an independent investigation but told employees in an email she's now concerned the investigation has been co-opted by the bureau for its benefit rather than theirs. "Its purpose has changed to the point that I don't believe it will be responsive to the many allegations you raised," Sollinger wrote. Margaux Weeke, a spokeswoman for Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, whose efforts to remake the bureau have led to conflict with the neighborhood associations the bureau oversees, says the results of the investigation will be shared with the public soon. Weeke says Eudaly and OCCL director Suk Rhee "have been working together to improve the bureau's culture and service to the community—but institutional change is difficult."
COUNTY CERTIFIES DAN RYAN'S VICTORY: As recently as Aug. 26, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith continued to raise questions about her narrow loss to Dan Ryan in the Aug. 11 runoff to fill a vacant Portland City Council seat. But Multnomah County elections officials found no merit to her concerns and certified the election result Aug. 31. (Ryan defeated Smith 51% to 48%, a margin of 5,291 votes.) Ryan announced this week he has hired Kellie Torres, development director at Portland Parks & Recreation, to be his chief of staff. Ryan takes office Sept. 10, replacing late Commissioner Nick Fish, who died in January of abdominal cancer.
REPUBLICANS FAIL AGAIN ON RECALL SIGNATURES: The Oregon Republican Party failed to gather sufficient signatures by Aug. 31 to put a vote to recall Gov. Kate Brown on the November ballot. This time, Republicans claim they fell 1% short of the necessary 280,500 signatures, although the claim is unverified. They cited COVID-19, Brown's pandemic-related social distancing orders, and a Democratic bill restricting electronic signature gathering that made the recall effort more onerous. "It is the highest bar for petition signature gathering in our state's constitution and has definitely been an uphill struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other obstacles," Republican Party chairman Bill Currier said in a statement. It was the fifth failed effort to recall Brown in two years and the second by the state's GOP.
AUDITOR DINGS CITY ON CONTRACTING EQUITY: A new audit released Sept. 2 found that while the city of Portland made progress on a 2012 policy to increase equity in construction contracting, it has mostly fallen short of expectations. "The result is dissatisfaction from top to bottom, inside and outside the government," the audit said. Although the city wanted to direct more small contracts to firms owned by women and people of color so they could gain experience and grow, auditors found most small contracts went to white-owned companies. The audit also found the city did a poor job of investigating complaints about contracting practices and appeared to play favorites. "Council years ago delivered ambiguous policy direction to indifferent managers and then ignored warnings that its construction equity programs weren't working well," said City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero. "It takes more than good intentions to repair historical inequities."
HENDERSON NAMED TO TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION: Gov. Kate Brown has nominated Maurice Henderson, former chief operating officer of TriMet and chief of staff to Mayor Ted Wheeler, to the Oregon Transportation Commission, which guides statewide transportation policy, including the widening of Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter. Henderson left Portland for a post at the e-scooter company Bird, where he is now director of government partnerships, and now lives in Bend. Henderson is Black, and the commission faces questions about the effects of the freeway widening on people of color. "Maurice has both federal and local experience with transportation issues, and also an understanding of agency operations, which will bring a thoughtful lens to the OTC," says Brown spokeswoman Liz Merah. Henderson did not respond to requests for comment by press deadlines.