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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

PDC: Same old stonewall

Fireman Randy knows a rat when he smells one. He's been trying to get to the bottom of one of the Portland Development Commission's classic developer giveaways, the one at SW Third and Oak. But when the city attorney asks to see internal PDC documents about that particular scam, the response is more like a raised finger than anything else. And so today the good commissioner is calling for the relevant records to be subpoenaed:

Now, months after the Council directed the audit, the PDC is refusing to release emails and documents to the City Attorney that relate to the history of PDC's involvement with the SW 3rd and Oak property. "I am very disappointed at PDC’s continual disregard for their responsibility as a public agency," said Commissioner Leonard, "Despite the best efforts of the Mayor to improve their transparency, the PDC continues to act like an organization with something to hide."

Accordingly, Commissioner Leonard filed a resolution today that will empower the City Attorney to exercise the City’s Charter authority to subpoena any documents the City Attorney may deem appropriate to conduct a thorough audit of the history of PDC's involvement with the SW 3rd and Oak property.

Go get 'em, Randy! If you ever need a place to host the dirt you find, you know where to come.

Comments (14)

I can't believe Randy Leonard has to file a resolution to look at communications of a public entity. Isn't that all part of the 'checks and balances' of government? What the hell is going on here? It's obvious the PDC thinks they're above investigation.

Just amazing.

Especially since Potter's people dominate the board and the top management. Crazy.

Sten, Adams and Leonard are all up to here with the PDC but for differing reasons. If they could get together, they have the votes to refer a charter amendment to the voters that could rein in that beast once and for all.

PDC is a beast all right. A LYING and CORRUPT beast.

Man, if you all knew what internal chaos the agency was in right now, you'd know how bad PDC leaderships wants to hide things.

Word around the water cooler is that a fair amount of staff are drafting a letter to City Council demanding that Potter do something - Bruce Warner it turns out has not been able to effectively manage the organization. In fact, many of us feel it's even worse than when Mazziotti was in power.

Go Randy.

Wasn't Warner just hired?

Or is my conception of the space-time continuum fouled up again?

Bruce Warner was hired in June of 2005. Under his management there has been over 38% staff turnover including staff that have been there for many years and some that have only stayed a few months or even weeks before bailing. This is highly unusual in the government sector.

In addition, the number of complaints, greivances and employee related law-suits has increased since his tenure.

Bruce has had some very questionable direct hires at over $85,000 salaries including the direct appointment of Rochelle Lessner (remember jobs at PDC should be open hiring processes) to some position they made up "policy director" - and she only lasted about a year. And then Mark Murray - a direct appointment to CFO through Bruce and recetnly the PDC Commission and others demanded that he be demoted (which he was), due to questionable expenditures such as contracts, the third and oak project, etc. This means that one of the most important positions at PDC - the person in charge of expenditures remains a very unstable position.

Futhermore, the economic development director was vacant for over 1 year, the public affairs department is in crisis (which could help explain the lack of transparency issue), and Bruce just keeps creating more and more high paid management positions (think I'm joking look at the PDC jobs section on their website)

Mr Warner may have his heart in the right place, but he has had about a year and a half to clean things up and he hasn't.

Moral is worse than any other era I've seen theren (and trust me I've seen some doozies), and the place is really just falling apart at the seams.

PDC may not have been in the newspapers much lately, but trust me, things will start coming out soon.

I'm pretty sure the public will be shocked.

"Under his management there has been over 38% staff turnover..."

Is that why the PDC had so many job postings in the Sunday Oregonian the last few weeks?

Why, yes. That, and a bunch of new positions created by Bruce Warner

Geez, I almost want to take out an ad in the Oregonian as a Public Service Announcement:

If you are interested in working at PDC, you might want to think twice...Interested in working for an agency with a proven track record of shady business dealings? Interested in working in an evironment that thrives on bullying, unprofessionalism, and cronyism? Interested in possibly having your name dragged through the mud in the newspaper and other media outlets for questionable business practices? Want to work for an agency that can not hold on to staff, where you won't be able to keep up with the names of your co-workers because they rotate out so often, and where you might be asked to do the job of 2-3 people because there are so many vacant positions? There is a reason there are so many job postings for PDC out there - and it's not because it's a great place to work.

Ok, thanks for the clarification. Hope stuff gets better for you.

I'm not sure that high turnover after a "regime change" is bad. But if morale is down, positions go unfilled, and a needless new layer of bureaucracy is being created, those are all bad things.

Thanks Mark. me - I'm fine. I just feel bad for all the other good people that still work at PDC and can't get their work done because of bad leadership (and that means you too Potter) and are put in awkward and potentially unethical positions on a daily basis. (and yes, there are many good people there).

Jack, I agree with you about tunrnover after a regime change, and frankly some people really did need to go. However, this goes way beyond that - many of these turnovers were hired and then quit DURING Bruce's tenor as well as many staff that were well respected and actually trusted by the community (a rare thing at PDC, you'd think they would try to hold onto them).

This staff turnover issue, while not front page (or even back page) Oregonian stuff, should be a huge red-flag for City Council and the community. It also makes getting any work done on a staff level next to impossible, and with so many vacancies, work gets half done, remains unfinished, and things fall through the cracks, leaving PDC highly at risk for mistakes.Plus iot's just a basic fact of human nature that in a low morale work environment, people just aren't motivated to do their best. It makes me sad to see so many people give up like that. But I can't say I blame them - they get treated like crap now matter how hard they work.

For a perfect example, I bet half the problem with getting the SW Oak audit materials is because many of the staff that worked on that project are now gone. With lack of document management systems in place and such a high-staff turnover, I bet a lot of those memos, reports, etc are just plain lost.

In any organization, management sets the tone. And in Portland Government - whether at the city, county, or regional level, the tone is identical - arrogance.

Of course this approach fosters low morale. And when the people who are actually supposed to do the work required to make things run are disrespected time and again, they adopt a not-unreasonable attitude: "I'm gonna do the bare minimum required in order not to get fired until I can find another job."

One cause of the "classic developer giveaways" that Jack posts is the "conflict of interest" issue that has been occuring at PDC. PDC has been reluctant to address this issue.

This summer at the Eleven Urban Renewal Advisory Committee Orientation (URAC) meeting, PDC's attorney defined the meaning of "conflict of interest". If a member is directly benefited by an action and its discussion, they are "in conflict" if they participate and vote.

URACs in large majority is made up of "stakeholders", owners/developers of property within a URA. Very few "at-large" people are members of these URACs. The general taxpayer who is footing a large majority of the bills of a URA are very lightly represented. This needs to change as well as adherence to "conflict of interest" state regs.

Amendment 8 of the North Macadam URA definitely exhibits the "conflict of interest" that has been occuring at the URAC, PDC Commission and City Council levels. Block 49 in NM was bought by Homer Williams, etc. for $1.2M one year before it was sold to PDC for $5M with several additional advantages given to Homer. He and his representative on the URAC participated and voted on Amendment 8 motions, and he monetarily benefited by his vote. This "conflict" was mentioned at the URAC meeting, but was ignored.

This has been occuring in other URACs and other PDC hearings. It needs to be addressed because it is contributing to the the "giveaways".

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