The last time Portland City Council sought a subpoena, the city was looking for information related to the energy-trading company Enron, whose name has become a byword for corporate corruption.
Now City Commissioner Dan Saltzman is planning to seek a subpoena of Uber, the company with its ride-hailing app, known for its aggressive avoidance of city and other regulators.
OPB and The Oregonian first reported on Saltzman's request for subpoenas, which will be issued after Council votes on them next month.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation released its investigation of Lyft and Uber today, using data the city collects from the companies, complaints from customers and answers the city got from companies, finding no irregularities since the companies began legally operating in Portland in 2015.
But Uber did not respond to the city's request for the playbook for the way the company uses the "Greyball" technology as well as a copy of the software. It's not clear whether a playbook exists.
"[Uber] seemed to indicate there wasn't playbook," says Saltzman. "I remain skeptical."
The company admits that it used that technology in Portland to in 2014, to block 17 users, 16 of which the company identified as city inspectors, from using the ride-sharing app, but the company hasn't answered questions about the use of the technology since that time to the satisfaction of city officials.
"It is unfortunate this investigation and the report have become so politically charged, and that Commissioner Fish has used the process to make baseless claims about our conduct in Portland," says Bryce Bennett, general manger of Uber in Portland.
Company officials provided a link to the city's report showing that Uber had expanded transportation options across the city. Fish had previously questioned whether the company might be redlining residents from low-income neighborhoods if they could exclude regulators from the app.
Fish expressed support for Saltzman's efforts to seek a subpoena and criticized the company's "dismal track record."
"I will continue to work with my colleagues to protect the public interest," he says in a statement. "And I do not intend to stop speaking out when Uber fails to play by the rules and compromises consumer safety. "
In background information provided to reporters, Uber officials indicated Greyball had not been used in Portland since 2014 for the narrow purpose of evading regulators —in their words, "with respect to regulators in Portland."
A letter to the city on April 21 from Uber attorney Thomas Perrelli, released as part of PBOT's report, indicates that the company uses the technology for marketing and for safety of drivers, but did not after 2014 use the technology in Portland to exclude anyone from getting an Uber ride.