Murmurs: Did The Port and Housing Agency Get Scammed?

  1. Two ex-employees of the Port of Portland and Home Forward, the area’s housing agency, are under criminal investigation for allegedly misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars from their employers. The ex-employees are officers of Business Diversity Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting contracting by minority-owned businesses. Sources tell WW the investigation is examining allegations money went from the port and Home Forward to the institute, and that the ex-employees spent the money on themselves, including trips to Las Vegas. The Oregon Department of Justice declined to comment except to confirm it is investigating. Spokespeople at the port and Home Forward would only say their agencies were cooperating with the DOJ.
  1. Gov. John Kitzhaber is talking about a special session in September to deal with school funding and further changes to public employee pensions. But WW has learned Kitzhaber is telling lawmakers he may push them to use the special session to revive the Columbia River Crossing, the $3.4 billion bridge and light-rail project the governor had previously declared dead following its defeat in the Washington Legislature. Only it never was dead. As we first reported (“Zombridge!” WW, July 17, 2013), state officials are pushing to keep the CRC alive—now at a new low price of $2.75 billion. The law authorizing Oregon to spend $450 million on the project expires Sept. 30. Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael says the governor hasn’t decided yet what to do. “There are a whole range of questions that we need answers to,” Raphael says.
  1. City Commissioner Nick Fish has watched how Mayor Charlie Hales has been treating the homeless, and he’s not happy. Hales launched a sweep of campsites on city sidewalks three weeks ago, starting with the plaza in front of City Hall. Documents obtained by WW under a public records request show Hales tried to coordinate a PR strategy with other commissioners. A July talking-points memo claimed Hales’ action would be “in response to the Road Warriors, and Occupy movement, and their living on the sidewalk.” Fish has taken exception to Hales’ tactics, telling the mayor’s office in a July 17 email, “I fear it will backfire.” Fish also dislikes Hales’ proposal to put food carts in the plaza and have musicians perform there. Hales took the city Housing Bureau out of Fish’s management portfolio in June. Fish tells WW he’s disappointed with Hales’ actions. “Food carts and music at City Hall,” Fish says, “are a poor substitute for a thoughtful and compassionate policy to address homelessness.”

WWeek 2015

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