Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps won’t be present for a key vote Wednesday on the latest round of grants from the $298 million Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund.
A memo from City Council Clerk Keelan McClymont said that Mapps will be absent from 9 am to 1 pm on July 20, when the council is scheduled to vote on a $107 million package of 65 grants approved by the all-volunteer PCEF grant committee earlier this month. Including allowances for inflation, the package is worth $120 million.
Instead of attending the council meeting, Mapps will meet with Casey Sixkiller, the new administrator for Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which includes Oregon, a Mapps spokesman said.
It’s not unusual for commissioners to miss votes, and it takes just three members of the council to make a quorum, so the measure can pass without Mapps present. It’s less common for commissioners to miss votes on large, closely scrutinized funding measures like PCEF, however.
PCEF is funded by a surcharge on retailers with annual sales of $1 billion or more in the U.S. and $500,000 or more within Portland. Grant awards are made by a nine-member committee and must be approved by the City Council. The fund is administered by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which provides staff to the grant-making committee.
Groups that include the Portland Business Alliance have railed against PCEF for raising far more money than expected and spending it without adequate oversight. The city auditor in March said that PCEF needed to adopt better methods to track, measure and report its performance, as required by the 2018 ballot measure that created it.
The Oregonian reported this afternoon that PCEF had violated city code by not posting the 65 grant applications on its website. There were 66 originally, but one of the grantees pulled its proposal.
The city code governing PCEF says the applications must be posted online, but it gives no deadline. PCEF spokeswoman Magan Reed said in an email that the applications would be posted after the council’s vote and that that practice is consistent with how they were posted after the first round of PCEF grants last year.
Commissioners could ax individual grants this week, but it would be unusual at this stage in the process, city officials said. The vote is designed to be all or nothing.