JAIL INMATES SUE COUNTY FOLLOWING OUTBREAK: Fifteen current and former detainees of the Multnomah County Inverness Jail, all of whom say they've tested positive for COVID-19, filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court on April 5, accusing jail staff and Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese of negligence for failing to mitigate spread of the virus. The lawsuit follows an outbreak that led to nearly 200 positive cases among Inverness Jail inmates, and about 30 staffers or members of their households. "The reason for the outbreak is not a mystery," the complaint says. "Defendants' failure to require, or enforce, social distancing, [personal protective equipment], increased testing, or other precautions in jails and jails known to slow the spread of COVID-19 placed plaintiffs at imminent risk of contracting COVID-19." The complaint alleges jail staff failed to require proper social distancing or conduct basic screenings for viral symptoms, and also required adults in custody to "continue to work or commingle" with others while awaiting test results. "The sheriff's office does not comment on pending litigation," said spokesman Chris Liedle. "However, since the onset of the pandemic, [the sheriff's office] has worked side-by-side with corrections and public health officials to keep adults in custody safe and healthy, and has constantly adapted its response and updated its COVID-19 policies based on the best information available at the time."
STATE SUGGESTS BURYING TOXIC SOIL ALONG BEACH: Environmental advocates and North Portlanders are livid at a decision by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to clean up a contaminated beach on the Willamette River by burying most of the hazardous waste onsite and fencing off portions of the area. WW examined the controversy over Willamette Cove last year ("Buried Treasure," Dec. 9, 2020). On March 31, DEQ issued its final cleanup plan—and mostly ignored pleas from advocates to haul the toxic waste away. "They're not protecting Portlanders," says Michael Pouncil, who lives nearby and chairs the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group. "They're not paying attention to the science of climate change. We're concerned about the risks of leaving this contamination onsite and having another 1996 flood, and then the whole area is contaminated again." The decision now rests with regional government Metro, which owns the 27-acre property. Nick Christensen, a Metro spokesman, says the agency is weighing its options. "We're in the process of gathering more information about moving more contaminated material offsite," he says.
FORMER POLICE UNION PRESIDENT RESIGNS FROM RETIREMENT BOARD: Former Portland Police Association president Brian Hunzeker resigned April 2 from his role on the board of trustees for the city's Fire & Police Disability & Retirement office, a position he has held since 2016. "I hereby resign my trustee position with the FPD&R board," Hunzeker wrote in an email to Mayor Ted Wheeler, first reported by The Oregonian. "I have appreciated the opportunity to serve." As WW reported last week, Wheeler demanded Hunzeker resign from the board immediately following his March 16 resignation from the role of PPA president due to a "serious, isolated mistake related to the [Portland] Police Bureau's investigation into the alleged hit-and-run by Commissioner [Jo Ann] Hardesty." Sam Hutchison, director of FPD&R, confirmed to WW on April 5 that Hunzeker had submitted his resignation. "We will start the election process for his replacement as soon as possible," Hutchison said. Hunzeker's role in the leaking of false and damaging information about Hardesty is still unclear. The city has begun three investigations into the leak, with a fourth broader, cultural review of the Police Bureau in the works.
WIEDEN+KENNEDY EMPLOYEES THREATENED BY DATA BREACH: Among its many unpleasant qualities, 2020 was a banner year for data breaches. More than 90 companies reported to the Oregon Department of Justice that customers' personal information was exposed last year by computer security breaches. (That's an 8% increase from 2019.) Among the possible victims: employees of Portland advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. WW has learned Wieden+Kennedy informed staffers over the last month that their personal information may have been compromised by a ransomware attack last November. The attack was on servers external to the ad agency, which directed WW to its accountant for comment. State records show that accounting firm Perkins & Co reported the breach to state officials on March 11. "At this point, Perkins & Co is not aware of any increase in suspicious activity to indicate that client information has been misused in connection with this incident," said president Jared Holum. "However, we continue to monitor the situation and will keep our clients informed accordingly."