City Council votes yes to Civic Life supporting SW communities –

10March 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN)– Portland City Council has authorized Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s proposal to have the Office of Community and Civic Life take control of support responsibilities for Southwest Portland neighborhood watch.

The relocation follows Hardesty cut moneying to Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. (SWNI), the union that had actually previously been in charge of supporting Southwest neighborhood associations, after an independent forensic audit found the group had actually mismanaged taxpayer funds over several years.

The regulation will license the workplace of civic life to produce two new planner positions. It also authorizes the city to offer a grant to a nonprofit organization that can supply liability insurance coverage and financial sponsorships to Southwest neighborhood associations, a duty SWNI previously also held.

Commissioner Mingus Mapps, a former employee of the civic life bureau, was the lone “no” vote amongst City board. He said he did not want to enact favor of the ordinance till an independent audit of the civic life bureau was finished.

While the audit of SWNI found monetary mismanagement along with a workplace culture of bullying, the bureau of civic life has also faced allegations of a vindictive work culture, too.

Portland City Council candidate Mingus from his project website, May 13, 2020 Mapps indicated a current example of those accusations, reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, in which the bureau is described as having problems such as harassment of workers from management being reported by lots of current and former personnel.

Mapps stated an audit of civic life, conducted by ASCETA, is expected to reach City Council’s desk in a matter of a few days. He proposed tabling the choice prior to Council until after the audit comes out.

“I am concerned about the results of the upcoming ASCETA audit of Civic Life that is due to come out within a week or two. Claims of staff abuse make voting for an ordinance to license extra staffing logically and fairly challenging for me,” Mapps stated in an emailed declaration to KOIN 6 News.

“I also think that the locals of Southwest Portland need to have a voice in how their neighborhood associations are served. I enjoy that we are going to have a work session on the future of the coalition system and hope we can integrate the voices of the neighborhoods into the decision-making procedure,” he said.

Hardesty, who was appointed by Mayor Ted Wheeler oversight of civic life in January, said she prepares to hold a work session with the entire City Council taking a look at ways to attend to problems with the workplace of civic life, neighborhood watch and coalitions.

However Hardesty stated it is essential to continue the assistance services to Southwest Portland neighborhood watch in the interim.

“I am closing a loop on a community that has been overlooked there wondering: Does the city hear us? Are they actually going to make sure that we’re getting standard level of services?” Hardesty said throughout the City board meeting Wednesday, before casting her vote in favor of the ordinance. “When I decided to pull the grant from SWNI, I went directly to their board to let their board know the decision I made and the reasons why it was the suitable decision to make,” she stated.

Hardesty said she met with over 450 neighborhood association members over Zoom Tuesday evening to hear them out after moneying from SWNI was pulled.

“I think we would do the Southwest community an injustice by continuing to pike this concern down the road. I have actually examined it, I have actually made what I believe is a sound decision and I will respect my associates to decide to either elect or against it. However I wish to be clear, there can be no more hold-up,” she said.

The votes were cast and all but Mapps enacted favor of the regulation, though many of the commissioners applauded the cordial and expert tone of the session– from both Hardesty and Mapps– in spite of arguments.

A 2016 audit of the civic life office– then called the Office of Community Participation– was likewise vital of the bureau for lack of responsibility for how neighborhood engagement funds were invested. The audit found a lack of oversight by the then-Office of Community Participation over district union grants.

Ever since, Civic Life Director Suk Rhee said the bureau has actually executed extra oversight steps, such as requiring annual work strategies, upgrading agreements and carrying out more strenuous evaluations of budget plans and billings submitted.

“It was this enhanced oversight that led us to ask extra concerns about the SWNI budget and practices straight impacting financial decisions, and led us to advise carrying out an independent forensic audit to Council,” Rhee stated in a composed declaration.

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty talks to protestors during a candlelight vigil to support Portlanders’rights to free speech and assembly at the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

Shannon Hiller-Webb, president of the Burlingame Neighborhood Watch in Southwest, told KOIN 6 News she thinks it was the best decision to pass the ordinance. A SWNI Board representative herself, Hiller-Webb was among the people within the union to raise worry about the city about the group’s mismanagement.

“Obviously, as a president of a neighborhood association, I am happy that we have a continuation of services supplied by City Council today. We’ve had a lack of that,” Hiller-Webb said. “However I believe in fact, we’ve had a lack of that at SWNI, as an agent for our neighborhood association, for a long time.”

HIller-Webb went on to describe a first-hand account of supervisory dysfunction that she had experienced and had been trying to alarm city leaders about for about two years. Such supposed habits consisted of neighborhood watch not getting the financial backing they must from SWNI in addition to supposed retaliatory habits– everything from physical dangers to risks of claims– from SWNI leaders for people on the SWNNI board who expressed dissenting opinions on certain concerns.

Hiller-Webb said she isn’t alone in her criticisms of SWNI either, she stated dozens of others also supported the ordinance passed Wednesday, however picked to submit their remarks via written testimony during a public hearing for the proposal recently.

Hiller-Webb is likewise one of 2 plaintiffs in a current suit versus SWNI over public records she asked for last year.

The fate of Southwest Neighborhoods Inc.’s funding was previously thrown into question last summer when leaders of the group wouldn’t turn over boxes of financial documents that some members of the group believed could expose monetary mismanagement, according to the Associated Press.

Funding for the group was then withheld, following an unanimous City Council vote in July 2020, until the documents were turned over and an outside audit was conducted.

The audit was critical of SWNI and discovered it to be a bad steward of taxpayer money. The audit, performed by independent third party auditor Marsh Minick P.C., discovered monetary mismanagement, including disputes of interest and misrepresentation. The audit discovered that, usually, roughly 7% of the $3.17 million in taxpayer funds the union has received considering that 2010 have been mismanaged or misspent. Hardesty decided on Feb. 24 to not renew the city’s contract with the group.

The audit likewise discovered SWNI made misstatements about their Paycheck Protection Program loan, that neighborhood members noted a pattern of prospective financial misbehavior and lack of openness which a previous team member was convicted of embezzling a minimum of $130,000 in 2011.

Civic Life Director Suk Rhee said she recognizes the significance the city employees and neighborhood partners have when it pertains to fiduciary responsibility to stewarding taxpayer dollars.

Shannon HIller-Webb, President of the Burlingame Neighborhood Association in Southwest Portland. Wednesday March 10, 2021 (KOIN).

“The passing these days’s regulation was a testimony to the crucial function community leaders gave our attention 18 months ago. Due to the fact that they brought this to our attention, we worked sensibly to ensure due process. This indicated working collaboratively with the commissioner-in-charge and other bureaus to ensure a reasonable, independent and transparent process was taken to guarantee financial obligation and accountability,” Rhee said in a composed declaration to KOIN 6 News.

“While the result of the audit results are regrettable, what is important to emphasize is that due procedure was supplied. The results show that Civic Life, both commissioner workplaces (Eudaly and Hardesty) and multiple bureaus jointly took the essential [actions] to promote our role as fiduciary stewards for the community, neighborhood watch, and the union workplaces. Moving on, Civic Life will start implementing even more best practices to guarantee that district coalition workplaces and grant recipients achieve success.”

SWNI will be the third independently operated district coalition organization of seven to end its relationship with the City due to complications at the community level, authorities said.

. SWNI leaders and their fans were crucial of the ordinance to have the city take over support responsibilities of Southwest areas along with the city grant being cut to their group, which represented more than 85% of their financing.

SWNI President Leslie Hammond said she thinks the audit findings are flawed which the group ought to’ve had the ability to openly give their side of the story prior to the choice to cut the funds were made.

“You require to offer SWNI a right to publicly explain its financial records and to unmask the 2020 forensic audit, which was biased, flawed, and not based, in big cases, on facts,” Hammond stated at a City Council meeting recently.

The Office of Neighborhood and Civic Life revealed Wednesday that they would start a 100-day plan to offer a smooth transition for Southwest neighborhood watch, including connecting with Southwest communities, developing an insurance coverage service provider, employing two full-time organizer positions and carrying out a requirements evaluation and updating contact information.

Next week, civic life will host two open house events to offer neighborhood members to satisfy the bureau’s staff, hear more about the transition and ask questions.

The open homes will be performed practically on Wednesday, March 17 from noon to 1 p.m. and after that from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. the very same day.

Interested celebrations are directed to this Zoom link. You can also call toll totally free at 888 475 4499. The open house’s conference ID is 956 7529 2861.


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