Hales Fires City's Finance Chief, Jack Graham

Charlie Hales gives his victory speech on Nov. 6 at Holocene.

Mayor Charlie Hales this afternoon fired the City of Portland's beleaguered finance chief, Jack D. Graham—saying ongoing quarrels over his handling of money are distracting the city.

"I want this city to do its work without distraction," Hales said this afternoon in a statement. "Controversies involving [the Office of Management and Finance] have become a distraction. As the commissioner in charge of OMF, I believe it is now time to make a change. I am therefore ending Jack Graham's employment agreement with the City of Portland."

Hales met with Graham Tuesday and again today, asking him at both meetings to quit. But Graham did not offer his resignation.

"Jack and the mayor spoke yesterday," Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes said earlier today. "He has received the written form. He has not responded."

Hales says Graham's last day will be Jan. 30, and the city will conduct a national search for his replacement.

Graham, the city's chief administrative officer, has faced an unwelcome spotlight since this spring, when The Oregonian first reported he was under investigation for trying to shuffle money improperly between bureaus to help ease a budget crunch in May 2012.

Hales tried to keep the investigation under wraps, but eventually released the report, which said Graham had been warned by two colleagues in the Office of Management and Finance not to make the transfer, which included water ratepayer dollars.

Hales released the report in July when ordered to so by the Multnomah County District Attorney's office. Both The Oregonian and WW had appealed Hales' decision to keep it secret.

But he refused to fire Graham. "The idea that Jack Graham proposed was not implemented," Hales said. "The transfer wasn't made. For what would he be disciplined? You discipline people for actions that cause harm to the community."

The fight over monitoring the city's financial dealings has dragged on throughout the year. Hales eliminated the city's chief financial officer position in May—against all advice, including that of City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, an independent auditor, and City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Hales recently backpedaled, and offered to put a panel of volunteers in charge of re-evaluating the city's entire financial structure.

Meanwhile, Graham again battled with a subordinate over the city's books. The Oregonian reported Nov. 7 that the city controller took a three-week hiatus after exchanging scathing emails with Graham over who was responsible for an accounting mistake noticed by an outside auditor. 

Calls by WW to Graham's office were not immediately returned.

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