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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

OMG! "Coffee laced with Bailey's Irish Cream"!

Those hard-hitting investigative reporters at The O were at it again on Sunday. Fresh from combing through ex-PDC chief Don "the Don" Mazziotti's expense accounts, where they found Bluehour galore, our "practically indispensable" muckrakers cranked up another front-page game of "Who had the pickle?" -- this time over at the Port of Portland.

Golly, wouldn't you know it, it looks like there were some questionable parties thrown on Port credit cards, of which there are something like 170 floating around in various Port employees' wallets. And hold onto your seats! Alcohol! Alcohol was purchased with some of them!

The level of detail that the Stickeler Temperance League went into this time is truly humorous. Gems like these:

A March 15, 2005, dinner for 14 Port firefighters during Salt Lake City training. With appetizers, steak and shrimp main courses, midnight cake a la mode and a $94.22 bar tab, the bill came to $491.53. Two weeks later, a group of 13 Port firefighters ran up a $455.08 bill at the same restaurant, including $58.75 for liquor.

Thirteen firemen spent $4.50 apiece on drinks at that second dinner -- can you believe that? And in Salt Lake City, no less. Scandalous!

The first dinner looks like a little more fun: 20 drinks for 14 firefighters --

Included in the $491.53 firefighter dinner were entrees, 13 beers, three glasses of Scotch, three Jack Daniel's with Coke, two appetizers, six desserts, three coffees and a coffee laced with Bailey's Irish Cream.

Coffee "laced with" Bailey's -- I love it. Soooooo evil-sounding. I'll bet some of the other coffees were laced with half and half! The cocktail sauce for the shrimp cocktails? Dosed with horseradish! One guy even did a line of Sweet 'n' Low on the taxpayers' tab.

Now this kind of writing is fairly harmless, and it may serve a purpose, even if it does resemble a high school newspaper project with a budget. But the sad thing is, it's as close to investigative journalism as The O ever seems to get at places like the Port. There'll be an editorial about the credit cards in the next day or so, and then our fine local daily will go back to sleep. All's well at the Port, folks, just a few no-good-niks overspending on meals. Same conclusion they tried to leave us with at the PDC.

As if the precise number of beers that the staff is drinking were all our media should be asking about. Here's a largely unwatched agency, with an annual budget well into nine figures, run by an unelected board appointed by the governor, with a strong odor of cronyism about it, doling out pork project after pork project, and the only hard look it gets is to send a reporter out to pick over some firemen's credit card bills? Ain't that the Portland way.

What next? Maybe they'll go over to Tri-Met headquarters and demand to know why the aspirin in the first aid kits is name brand rather than store brand. Other than that, I'm sure everything's fine over there, too.

Comments (12)

Now this kind of writing is fairly harmless, and it may serve a purpose, even if it does resemble a high school newspaper project with a budget. But the sad thing is, it's as close to investigative journalism as The O ever seems to get at places like the Port.


This type of piece might even be important in an informative way, if it were following up on (or was followed by) a more in-depth investigation on how the department or agnecy has a tendency to spend like drunken sailors in amounts above $500, say $500,000 or $5,000,000.

This type of piece would be helpful if it were just another part of a larger story. Unfortunately, it seems this is as big and as "bad" as the Bit O gets.

Thanks for calling them out, Jack.

Heh. The O can't properly add up the money wasted in the PGE fiasco, but they got the cost of the Bailey's correct? Now THAT'S priceless.

A special event dinner out for fourteen people, with booze, for under $500? About thirty bucks a head? Props to them for economizing, actually. Seriously.

Having seen enough corporate and private dinner parties that spend multiples of that amount per head, on a much more frequent basis, I can't believe anyone would begrudge the occasional nice meal with a beer for people who risk their lives for the public good.

I'm with Eric. After seeing the run down of what was ordered, I expected a much higher tab.

On a couple of rare occasions, I've been out with groups half that size, and the tab was at least $500.

Kudos to the budgeting skills of our firefighters. They know how to go out in style and still keep the tab manageable.

A recent PPS audit -- before they substituted an inhouse auditor for an outhouse auditor -- criticized only the accounting of such similar minor expense account stuff. Let's face it, the big O didn't have much to go on in the first place (from an audit itself), just like any routine citizen that looks to the auditor to do something useful on the public's behalf. Would you demand less of a professional auditor than the big O?

In addition, having lived in Salt Lake City for several years, I can assure everyone that you have to jump through so many hurdles to get "hard" alcohol at a bar that all fun is drained from the occasion. Any venue that serves hard liquor is not a bar, but a "social club for members," which requires that you either purchase a membership for the evening or get sponsored by a current member (usually some drunk sitting at the end of the bar). There are all sorts of crazy laws about how much alcohol can be sitting on the table at one time (no more than 1.5 oz per person, and nobody can have more than 1.5 oz in any one drink, IIRC), how many drinks you can order at a time (one), etc. etc. You have a better time in Utah if you just eat out, and then stop by the state run liquor store for a fifth of Jack on the way home.

Dave J.
You're right about that. But you know what's ironic? The Salt Lake International airport has the nicest facility for smokers that I've ever seen (or at least they did about ten years ago). Right in the middle of the terminal (instead of five miles away) with great air filtration, comfortable chairs and television. Go figure.

If they're so concerned about fiscal responsibility, the O ought to run the numbers on how much it costs to produce a front page, 200 column inch article spiked with a double shot of irrelevance. I bet its alot more than a coffee "laced" with baileys.

Just what are their editors thinking "Hmmm...we have room for one more story on our front page and its down to a choice between a once-in-500-years storm heading right for 1.5 million people in New Orleans tomorrow with the potential to leave the whole city 28 feet under water, kill thousands, leave tens of thousands homeless, and cause billions of dollars in damage...or that someone used a port credit card to buy a drink while they were travelling on port business, just like it said they could under their travel policy. Run the port story...now that's NEWS!

While I can't disagree that this is a rather trivial story when there are so many more important rocks that need overturning this is, after all, our tax dollars that are being spent. The Oregon public agencies (municipal and county) that I have had experience with over the last couple of decades have all prohibited the use of public money for the purchase of alcoholic beverages and usually have had a cap on meal expenses that would be well below the costs quoted in the article.

Every single tax dollar is important. Every time I hear a story about some poor ol' government agency running short of funds, I can count to five and hear another story about waste such as this. Yeah, it's small waste - but it all adds up.

This is nothing but slight of hand by the "O". They are just like a lot of the military leaders I know. Only fix(or address) the things they can fix to make it look like they are accomplishing something. Instead of doing the hard task and investigativing where our tax dollars go in scads, like light rail projects and some of those other money pits.
Rather, let's go after the fire fighters. Well, if this is my tax dollars, than the fire fighters can buy another round on me. The fire fighters are hard working heros, vice the political hacks that participate in the contracts of a rail road that costs millions per mile. That's a crime to be investigated.

The O only publishes stories about local graft under $10k-per-month. Because if it's in the Oregonian - it's not worth noting.

Let's review:
- The Baileys Story (an SUV tank of gas, really) is in all the way.
- Vicki Phillips' boyfriend with the suspect consulting gig squeaked in at just over $9k-per-month.
- But the aerial tram [rim shot] is right out.

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