Oregon: We make it easy to rip off the public
We'd been wondering whatever happened to the Mike Burton travel fraud scandal at the Portland State Patronage Center. State and local prosecutors have now forced him to admit that despite his earlier, lying protestations, he did indeed bill PSU for personal travel in Europe under the false pretense of attending business-related conferences. And so now Burton, former power broker at Metro, is a convicted criminal, on 18 months' probation, and he's been required to pay back $4500 to the university.
Of course, he's painted as a victim, too -- an alcoholic, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from Vietnam, etc. The guy is 70 years old. He'll no doubt keep his PERS retirement fund, and certainly the PERS-sponsored Medicare supplement will be expected to pick up the tab for his required "treatment." If you were a bookkeeper at the local hardware store and you pinched $4500, you might not get off so easy, but if you're a bigshot politician...
Oh, well. It's always remarkable when a public official is busted for corruption in Oregon, whose residents are pollyannishly blind to human nature when it comes to their clean, green state and local government. But in this case, even more remarkable is the letter that prosecutors wrote to their bosses, expressing their alarm at how lax Portland State is when it's handing out travel reimbursements to bureaucrats like Burton. As posted by Willy Week, they wrote in part:
Of course, the face cards running PSU, which has reduced itself in recent years to little more than a real estate enterprise, can never admit that mistakes were made, or that bad judgment was exercised. Oh no, the provost has given it the scoundrel's best "The system worked" response. Great message for the hapless students.
Something similar happened last week, when an administrative law judge let two Portland school district employees off the hook in connection with last year's election abuse scandal. In that incident, first brought to light on this blog, the district illegally used taxpayer funds to promote a pending ballot measure regarding school funding. Even if the employees in question had violated state elections law, the judge was unwilling to impose a sanction because the Oregon secretary of state's office had dragged its feet in promulgating the necessary regulations needed to interpret state law. Instead, it processed the Portland case based on a manual it had previously produced, which was not strong enough authority to bring an action against anyone.
In other words, without regulations, the law prohibiting use of tax funds for politics had little or no effect at all. A regular scammers' delight, this place is. At least a few of the miscreants at the school district admitted guilt and paid their fines before it was revealed that they had nothing to worry about. They all could have gotten off on a technicality -- a blunder by our secretary of state.