Interim Portland Parks and Recreation director Kia Selley was one of two high-ranking parks bureau officials alerted to elevated lead levels at the Multnomah Arts Center, years before they were revealed to the public.
The center has been home to a preschool since at least 2012. Elevated lead levels were found in the water in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the parks bureau revealed in 2016. Some requests to fix the lead problem weren't approved by upper management, The Oregonian reported.
Those tests only came to light after the Flint water crisis and the local Portland Public Schools lead-in-the-water scandal encouraged other public agencies to explore their own lead problems.
The Oregonian revealed in July of 2016 that Selley had been one of two top-level parks deputies to receive notice, as far back as 2012, that the facility had elevated lead levels. She resigned later that year.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who has been in charge of parks for five years, chose to bring Selley back as interim director earlier this month after forcing out long-time bureau director Mike Abbate.
Fritz says Selley's resignation in 2016 "had no connection with the lead issue."
"I considered Kia's role in the lead issue before appointing her as Interim Director," emails Fritz.
"With 20/20 hindsight, we all acknowledge that mistakes were made. As reported in The Oregonian, the investigation that was completed determined that there was no malfeasance or intent to deceive. Kia was instrumental in finding solutions….My focus will always be to look for how to address problems so that they don't reoccur."
Fritz also writes that she made the selection of interim direction "in consultation with the Mayor, because of our shared priorities for the Bureau, her in-depth knowledge of Portland Parks & Recreation, and because she is highly respected inside the Parks Bureau, other government agencies, and throughout Portland."
A May 1 memo from Mayor Ted Wheeler to Fritz shows they agreed to launch a national search for a permanent director to be completed within three to six months.