A true bombshell
It's been a genuinely historic couple of days here in Portlandia -- potentially the biggest in our nine years plus of blogging. The FBI raid on the city's parking meter manager, Ellis McCoy, is stunning. There are so many angles just begging to be written about -- let's see if we can get a decent rundown posted before the weekend gets here and the sunshine distracts us:
The interim U.S. attorney is showing some serious brass ones here. We can't remember any of his predecessors over the last three decades being willing to swoop down on suspected municipal corruption. Certainly his three immediate predecessors weren't brave enough to try anything of the sort.
Holton is certainly not publicity-shy -- is he running for something? The permanent U.S. attorney's position, perhaps? His designated successor, who doesn't seem as qualified as he, is having trouble getting confirmed. But is making waves the way to win the heart of Gatsby Wyden, who calls the shot on that position?
Maybe Holton's angling to run for Multnomah County district attorney. In our book, he'd be a better choice than either of the two candidates announced so far.
One fascinating aspect of the McCoy probe is how much the mainstream media seems to know about it. They're reporting not only the target, but the specifics of what he's being targeted for. Given that Holton's office doesn't appear to have said boo publicly about the nature of the investigation, somebody over there may be talking off the record to the press and broadcast people. Otherwise, we suspect they'd be much more circumspect in their account of what's being investigated.
The relationship of McCoy and his former boss, ex-transportation director Sue Keil, has taken some drastic swings over the past few years, and they don't add up. At one point, McCoy had threatened to sue the city, accusing Keil of racial prejudice, among other things. Keil, who's now interim head of the city parks bureau, reportedly told McCoy he had serious issues, including allegations of bribery, and it's pretty likely that she wound up seeking out a management coach to try to whip him into shape. McCoy, Keil, and Lavinia Gordon -- the manager who sat between the two on the flow chart -- even had a sit-down to discuss a "severance issue." It was stormy, to say the least.
Now, however, the relationship has turned around 180 degrees. Suddenly Keil says that all the parking meter contracts were shipshape, and McCoy is saying nice things to the press about her and his other superiors. When asked by a reporter yesterday why he didn't follow through with suing the city, he replied that he decided that it wouldn't be ethical to sue one's employer.
Give me a break. There is something extremely odd going on there.
McCoy is all over the local TV apologizing for putting the city through this "experience." What exactly is he apologizing for? If he's innocent, he's the victim of a wrongful investigation. Why would he apologize for that? None of the three reporters he told how sorry he was, asked him what for.
Perhaps the most stunning sight of all was the reaction of the city's hapless mayor. The guy looked scared witless, both when a reporter first accosted him in the hallway (see the start of this video, after the commercial) and again when he gave his canned statement. He had Sustainable Susan Anderson (governess of food scrap composting) next to him in the hallway scene, and she, too, looked like somebody had just been shot:
If McCoy really had been internally investigated and found clean, would that be the reaction? Indeed, even if Adams knows the guy's dirty, why the end-of-the-world look? It's just the parking meter guy.
There's got to be something bigger happening here. Maybe it's that an unwritten deal between City Hall and the feds has been broken. Maybe it's that other bribes and kickbacks are waiting to be found. But from the look on the mayor's face, it must be bad for him -- really bad. The big question that he and other truth-challenged city officials are doubtlessly asking themselves is where the cleanup is going to stop. And what does McCoy have to trade with Holton if a plea deal is on the table?
The embarrassment is actually double in the mayor's case. Not only does he run the transportation bureau, but he's also in charge of the finance bureau, which handles procurement. If there were bribes or kickbacks being taken for city contracts, shouldn't that office also be held responsible?
The O Channels Claude Rains
At least there was some comic relief. The O has published this howlingly funny editorial, in which its board exclaims that it is shocked -- shocked! -- that there could be dishonesty in local government. This in a town where the mayor leaves envelopes full of cash at the City Hall reception desk for the victim of his own alleged sexual abuse, while a criminal investigation of those allegations is in full swing. Where the transportation director takes a free (or should we say almost free, he couldn't remember if he paid anything) weekend at the beach house of a developer who regularly feasts at the public trough. A state where the treasury employees bill the public for reimbursement of travel expenses that were actually paid by somebody else -- the people with whom they do official state business. And the state treasurer has to be waterboarded before he finally gives in and outlaws such practices.
Four words, people: tip of the iceberg.
But hey, the O is shocked and outraged. "This isn't New Jersey," they sneer. No, and you aren't the Washington Post, either.
That other paper