March 23, 2004
Recent Developments Regarding Bureau Of Licenses
Bureau Chief Fired, Katz/Leonard Spat Continues
Last week, we reported on Commissioner Randy Leonard's claims that his ongoing investigation into the Bureau of Licenses had determined that there may be as much as $10 million in uncollected business taxes in Portland.
Willamette Week covered this last Wednesday as well:
While Mayor Vera Katz has been using the police to pursue a whistleblower, Leonard's troops have come up with some pretty compelling evidence that the bureau has done a lousy job of collecting the Business Income Tax. "Our delinquency rate approaches 30 percent, and that's unacceptable," says interim license-bureau director Thomas Lannom, who adds that poor collection practices have left as much as $10.5 million on the table.
And in a story dated March 19, Northwest Labor Press reported on the additional controversy involving Mayor Vera Katz using the Portland Police Bureau to try to track down who at the Bureau played whistle-blower by at one point leaking information to Willamette Week:
But lame-duck Mayor Vera Katz didnít see the anonymous city worker who set these changes in motion as a hero; she saw an employee who leaked confidential tax information about KOIN-TVís tax bill to the press, in apparent violation of state law. And she ordered the Police Bureau to investigate.
Workers in the Bureau of Licenses began getting calls from police investigators asking them to come down to the station to answer some questions. When Portland City and Metropolitan Employees Local 189 President James Hester found out, he ran down to the Justice Center immediately to stop the interviews. He was able to postpone them for a few days.
Today, The Oregonian reported that Leonard fired Jim Wadsworth, the head of the Bureau, who had been on paid leave:
Wadsworth could not be reached for comment Monday evening. In a statement, Judy Snyder, his Portland lawyer, said her client "emphatically disagrees with the factual findings and conclusions reached by Commissioner Leonard."
She pledged to appeal the termination to the Civil Service Board.
Leonard said he removed Wadsworth from the $100,339-a-year job because Wadsworth's tenure as head of the bureau was "indefensible."
And meanwhile Phil Stanford reported in today's Portland Tribune that the Leonard/Katz tension may be heating up:
On Friday, city Commissioner Randy Leonard told the mayor she had a choice: Either let him manage the bureau as he sees fit, or take it away from him and accept the responsibility (read, public outrage). ... Vera said she'd think about it.
Which would be unfortunate. Whever one comes down on the other matter of Leonard's tenure as Commissioner in charge of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, one would be hard-pressed to allege that he's not making things happen in situations such as that at the Bureau of Licenses.
Hopefully, the Mayor won't take the bait.
In the meantime, we have a question for our readers who occassionally weigh in on how bad Portland is for business: Where's your outrage at these businesses who are bad for Portland? Or do you endorse private-sector lawlessness in the name of sticking it to the City?