First, however, let me clearly state that I will not comment on the Oregonian’s report of events that took place in my life over 20 years ago except to say this: After reading the story, my former wife (with whom my wife Julie and I currently share an amicable relationship) contacted me to say she had been misquoted in the article. She and I agree that the Oregonian made inaccurate statements that have no relevance to my work on the Pension fund. While I welcome issue-related discourse about the Pension Fund, my personal life is not up for discussion. I am deeply disappoiinted, however, that the Oregonian is attempting to attack my credibility relative to the Fire and Police Retirement fund with what feels like a very personal attack.
I will also point out that the Oregonian initiated their exhaustive investigation into my past immediately after I criticized the articles Maxine Bernstein and Brent Walth wrote about the alleged abuses occurring at the Pension fund. (Ms. Bernstein contacted me after the articles were published to ask me what I thought of them.) To cite one example, I criticized Ms. Bernstein for quoting the angry ex wife of a firefighter who suggested that her former husband had continued to collect disability benefits after his back injury resolved. This woman was quoted as if she had expertise in medical and disability matters and was a fair and impartial observer concerning her ex husband’s medical condition. I told Ms. Bernstein this struck me as unbalanced reporting lacking in objectivity. Ms. Bernstein’s reaction was to show up unannounced at my former wife’s house in Vancouver under the pretense of doing a “profile” of me. Note to self: Lesson Learned.
As far as some of the claims made by the Oregonian regarding my advocacy on behalf of injured firefighters and police officers over the past 20 years, it is true that I have often worked to make sure that these public servants are treated fairly when they are injured in the line of duty. The Oregonian’s characterization of me as dominating the Board of Trustees of the Pension Fund and forcing claims through the system is laughable. I was one vote on the board. One. Every other trustee on the board—men and women including the mayor (Both Bud Clark and Vera Katz during my tenure), city treasurer, city auditor, and police and fire chiefs (not pushovers, in other words)—also had one vote. Decisions made by the board require a majority vote. Unless I am being accused of holding a gun to the heads of my fellow trustees (and I don’t think anyone is saying THAT), it simply wasn’t possible to force the board to make decisions contrary to the wishes of the majority.
As I posted here on Blue Oregon earlier this year, the Oregonian was equally shrill about my position opposing Portland’s participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force unless certain conditions were met. I always have and always will fight for the things I believe in. However, I have learned there is a price to pay when one sticks to their principles. Today’s Oregonian article is one example of that.
It is fair to say that the articles and editorials written so far regarding the Fire and Police Pension and Disability Fund are on some points accurate but at various times inaccurate, misleading and even absolutely untrue. I do believe there are important changes that could be made to dramatically reduce the costs to taxpayers. Unfortunately, any efforts to support fair, reasoned and educated changes to the current system get drowned out by the fevered pitch of the Oregonian’s apparent strategy to demonize anyone who says anything even remotely defensive of the current system.