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Friday, January 13, 2012

Some tarnish on Max Williams's halo

When Max Williams recently stepped down after eight years as the director of the Oregon corrections department, friends and colleagues heaped praise on him. He did a wonderful job, they all said. But yesterday it was revealed that another 40-something corrections manager recently left, and the circumstances aren't so rosy:

Prosecutors are considering criminal charges over misuse of public funds at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, tied to a prison manager who has resigned....

The focus of the recent investigation is Mike W. Mathisen, 44, until recently the food services manager at Two Rivers. He managed the prison's central kitchen, overseeing about 100 inmates a day who worked to feed the prison population of 1,580.

Mathisen, with a $59,000 salary, was on paid leave from May until he resigned in late November after the agency finished an initial investigation. While working for the state, Mathisen had catering and food-packing businesses in Hermiston, and established two local farmers markets....

His supervisor, Assistant Superintendent Bob Martinez, was put on paid leave in late November after the Corrections Department finished investigating Mathisen. Martinez returned to work last week, taking a demotion to counselor.

Shades of Farhad "Fred" Monem, the prison system's chief food buyer, who fled the country for his native Iran about four years ago while being investigated for corruption. That fiasco happened under Williams's watch as well, although it was then-state attorney general Hardy Myers's office that let Monem get away.

Every report of corruption in the state's prison hierarchy, of course, reinforces many observers' suspicions that the 1989 murder of one of Williams's predecessors, Michael Francke, was committed by someone other than Frank Gable, the petty criminal who was convicted of that killing. Unlike Williams, Francke told his brother that he had uncovered organized crime in the prisons and was about to put a stop to it. The next thing you knew, people were saying nice things about him -- at his funeral.

Comments (6)

Jack -

I may be wrong, but IIRC it was the US Attorney's Office in Portland which had Monem under indictment for various flavors of mail and wire fraud; Monem was allowed an "own recognizance" release while pending trial, with the USA's office not making any serious objection. I think he had to surrender g his US passport.

Monem, again IIRC, left his Salem residence, leaving his also charged wife behind, made a cross country trip to Buffalo, N.Y.; crossed into Canada, and went from either Toronto (most probable) or Montreal to Teheran. Monem apparently also had an Iranian passport, which got him into Canada, and on to Teheran.

Surprisingly, The Islamic Republic wasn't very receptive to a request for Monem's extradition.

Monem's wife eventually pled guilty, was fined; forfeited a lot of property, but I don't recall is she actually did jail time.

Hardly Matters was singularly ineffective as Oregon's AG, but please give credit for this farce where it is due; that's the Oregon US Attorney's Office and the federal Magistrate who allowed Monem such loose pre trial release.

They also seem to forget that Max buddy was one of those troublesome Rs that all of a sudden rolled over for Teddy K to get appointed to this gig.

BTW - He gets a pretty nice PERS pension also (like Gladys McCoy, but I don't know if it is pushing $100K like she is) from the pay bump for a couple of years in an honorary position.

Phil Stanford assembled some pretty convincing evidence that Gable was wrongly convicted, but I believe he's still in a Florida prison.

I read somewhere that it's a Nevada prison now.

Hardy Myers was involved in the Monem case. He filed a civil suit against the guy after he took off. God forbid he should have indicted him, or at least tailed him.

An old inmate came in my office one day, had some stuff to get off his chest. I was used to having every kind of crack-pot in my office and my bulls*** meter was tuned up pretty high, but this guy wasn't lying, he at least beleived what he was saying.

The old timer said Frank Gable was a patsy, and that the same inmate who killed officer Robert Geer in the prison yard at OSP in 72 was the same person used to assassinate Michael Franke.

He claimed he was friends with this other inmate and personally knew people who saw him being taken out of his cell that night, supposedly from where he was being housed you could practically see dome of the building where Franke died, not out at OSP but at another prison closer in.

The old timer said he had know the other inmate for a long time, and even before the Franke murder he knew there was something up with this other inmate in that he was definitely not treated like a cop killer within the system, and eventually this other inmate had told him he had killed Officer Geer at the behest of other guards at OSP by staging a fight in the yard and stabbing Geer when he intervened.

Supposedly Officer Greer was killed for the same thing, digging up / stumbling on the organized crime element, way back in 72, and this other inmate was basically an assassin for the corrupt DOC.

The old timer said after the assassin killed Franke as a reward he was let out of jail, which was unusual for people who have killed officers in the yard (and were lifers before that), but ended up going after a girlfriend with a hammer or something with a year or so of getting out, and quickly succumbed to illness upon return to prison.

I checked the basic facts with another old guy who'd done 30 years at OSP and it checked out, he said he'd known both the man who had come to my office, who he said was just a simple guy, and the other inmate, whom he said had been feared within the system and had a reputation as there being someone "holding an umbrella over him".

Well that's as best as I remember this story anyway. I never could find an official record of who it was that killed Officer Geer, but then I didn't look very hard either, I had the name the old timer have me in my notes somewhere but I doubt I could find it now.

Many years ago I knew a Salem bureaucrat (long since passed away) who spent a brief and early stint of his government employment working in the prison system. He was there when Franke was murdered. And his story was that anyone with a lick of sense just looked the other way because there was a cadre of guards who were crooked to the core and murder was not out of their realm. In the early 90s, he told me that he had been told by an inmate that Franke was killed to stop him from blowing the whistle on corruption.

He got out of corrections as quickly as he could. His next gig was at the Callahan Center (famous for being sold by the State of Oregon to Mary Manin Morrissey and the Living Enrichment Center). And of course the AG's office let the Morrisseys off pretty lightly for their illegal activities.

It's interesting just how crooked this state is and always had been. When I moved here from Boston in the mid-70s I was so sure that this was a new world lacking the corruption so common in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Philly and what not. The level of corruption flies in the face of the image of the enlightened city on a hill that Portland pretends to be.

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