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Friday, May 20, 2011

City of Portland's head money guy steps down


Ken Rust (left), the chief administrative officer of the City of Portland, is quitting. Rust has headed up the city's management and finance office for just under five years. The reasons given for his departure are vague -- he wants to pursue other interests in what appear to be his mid-fifties -- but he's the second top officer leaving a bureau headed by the mayor in 2011. Transportation chief Sue Keil is also gone, having recently retired.

There has been a substantial amount of turnover in the city finance bureau over the past three years. The city has changed its chief financial officer, treasurer, and debt manager in that time. Not to mention the city auditor, and now the chief administrative officer. The debt manager became the treasurer, but the rest of the names at the top of the finance bureau masthead are new.

Replacing Rust will be Jack Graham (right), who's been the chief administrator at the fire bureau. No word on whether any sort of organized search was conducted, but surely none is necessary when one of Fireman Randy's men is available.

The mayor's statement on the personnel change was accompanied by repetition of the highly misleading assertion that the city has an AAA bond rating. Like so many things the mayor says, that's true as far as it goes. The city's general obligation bonds do carry such a rating, but at $60 million, they are a drop in the sea of $3.2 billion in bonds that the city has outstanding. The vast, vast majority of those bonds carry ratings below AAA -- some far below.

Anyway, good luck to Graham and his cast of newcomers with keeping the city afloat while it's being run by the Twins.

UPDATE, 2:42 p.m.: A reader notes that in the past year or so, the city's controller and head of budgeting have also retired. Having everyone who knows the money secrets disappear all at once is not a good sign.

UPDATE, 5/24, 5:29 a.m.: We just noticed that due to a recent change in the way Moody's rates municipal bonds, the city's first lien water bonds also get an AAA rating these days. Still, only at most about 16% of the city's bonds are top-rated; the rest are AA1 or lower. Details here.

Comments (15)

I really wonder why Adams needs to lie about the city's bond ratings so frequently. Is he just trying to deceive himself into believing that everything will be okay?

Like walking out on his restaurant tabs, not paying mortgages -- it just doesn't matter, because everything is rated AAA here in this best of all possible worlds.

Who knows why Mr. Rust is really leaving? Jumping ship to save his career? Better opportunity? Better working conditions? Family? The weather? A disagreement with The Boss?

Speaking of which, I was just reading up on William "Boss" Tweed and Tammany Hall. Enlightening reading.

One of these days the free money from the Federal government and the state lottery funds is going to stop coming stump town's way, especially if Washington county's economy continues to outpace Multnomah's and the Fed's slow government subsidies. The balance of power is shifting towards the burbs, and this may put a cap on the grandiose spending plans of Adams and crew. Not all transportation projects will go through stump town in the future.

"There has been a substantial amount of turnover in the city finance bureau over the past three years"

The perfect (storm) enviroment for plausible deniability.

Oh for crying out loud the city has money laying around in nearly every drawer.

Why just the other day Adams found millions to lure SoloPower to town.

And that investment will lead to even more money lying around.

It's all good.

Ken Rust probably quit because he kept having nightmares about the FBI barging into his office while he and Sam are furiously feeding the paper shredder.

Either way, another opening is another opportunity for the mayor to appoint one of his skateboarding friends or whatever to assume the position.

If the city is in financial trouble that most of the bonds are below the AAA rating, now would be the time for PWB to stop all unnecessary projects.

All the government fat cats are taking the loot and running.

One thing you can say about these career bureaucrats, they aint stupid!

BTW: the world is coming to an end tomorrow:

Amusing watching these guys heading for the exits before their financial pyramid collapses.

Meet the new fall guy -- same as the old fall guy....

Anybody know anything about the new guy. Given Randy's penchant for "fast" promotions the guy was probably on a ladder truck two years ago.

Miller was eminently qualified to replace Keil. He rides a bike to work and likes to skateboard.

Don't forget - in the turnover ranks there's also the city's controller, and the head of budgeting who have both retired in the past year or so.

Jack Graham was hired long before Randy was commissioner. He is a professional public sector manger and never worked on a ladder truck!

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