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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mismanagement, waste, workplace hostility and fraud uncovered at Oregon Human Development Corporation (OHDC)!!!

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

The Oregon Human Development Corporation, based in Tigard, recruited and hired me in early June of this year (2008) to fill their vacant Employment Specialist position in the Gresham office, located in the Rockwood neighborhood.

Although I was not looking for another job at the time, I jumped at the opportunity to work with OHDC’s clientele of largely Mexican farm workers. I am the son and grandson of Mexican farm workers, and OHDC was offering me an opportunity to return to my roots and help others transition from seasonal or migrant work to more stable employment.

Since OHDC has held a monopoly on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Oregon funds under the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) for the past 29 years, I assumed that they were doing a good job.

Almost immediately after beginning employment at OHDC, however, I became aware of an alarming number of problems and issues within the organization that led me to act as a whistleblower, documenting my concerns in a series of three letters I sent to the U.S. Department of Labor and other parties in July.

Among the allegations documented in those three letters:

1. No one knows who the OHDC Board members are. They do not appear to meet. Any queries about the Board are met with resistance from OHDC Central Office management.

2. Many client files contain little information about the client. What is clear is a pattern: OHDC reports to its funders that clients receive frequent contact and that services are provided, but there is little or no evidence in the files to support those claims. As an Employment Specialist, I received constant pressure to provide positive reports regarding clients I had never seen nor spoken with.

3. OHDC’s workflow and computer systems may be the most dysfunctional in North America. God knows how they get away with this. The (appropriately titled) MIS Manager lives in another state, racking up frequent flyer miles at farm worker expense.

4. ESL classes are vital to client success, because lack of English skills are their greatest barrier to employment and advancement. Over a period of years, OHDC has represented that its Gresham clients receive ESL instruction, but the only record of such are attendance sheets. There is no requirement that the ESL instructor teach any specific curricula or meet any goals whatsoever other than to see that clients sign the attendance sheets. No one knows what—-if anything—-was taught in the class. The instructor was a personal friend of Fernando Guttierrez, who hired and re-hired her.

5. Despite the long monopoly of WIA grant funds across the entire state of Oregon, OHDC has no active employer partnerships, not even with the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce or any of its members. This is really hard to believe, trust me, but that speaks to the level of incompetence at Central Office management level and disinterest on the part of OHDC’s Board of Directors.

6. My recommendations were that change be implemented at both the Board and Central Office management levels, and that the Central Office be closed down, with its remaining positions co-located with field offices providing direct services.

None of this endeared me to the long-entrenched Central Office management, but I received a great deal of support and encouragement from both current and former OHDC employees, all of whom recognized that OHDC maintains a hostile work environment and has done so for years.

I never received a reply from the DOL or any of the other parties I had sent the letters to, but OHDC management sure came after me for contacting their funders.

OHDC’s management could not dispute much of what I had written because I had simply written out what any observer could see. Their anger was focused on the fact that I had contacted their long-time funders.

One of the distinctive characteristics of OHDC is the split between Central Office personnel and those employed around the state in its various field offices.

Central Office employees have generally been there for more than a decade, some since the beginning, and with a single exception are non-Hispanic and are not bilingual or bicultural, even though nearly 100% of OHDC clients are Spanish-speaking. Central Office employees view their positions as career-length, and plan to retire in place.

Field office employees are 100% bilingual and bicultural, and with a few exceptions, are either terminated or move on in less than a year. The turnover rate must rank among the highest in any industry, and OHDC clients rarely have the benefit of a long-term relationship with a case worker.

OHDC management suspended me with pay for a couple of weeks mid-summer, then brought me back under a Work Performance Plan that was actually impossible to meet. Some of its key deadlines had already passed; it required performance levels far greater than any historical OHDC achievements; and, the Central Office controlled the information necessary to carry out the plan, but due to its massive ineptitude was unable to provide it.

In my three July letters, I did not allege the commission of fraud in OHDC’s reporting, although I strongly suspected it was the case.

As weeks went by, however, it became very clear that OHDC Central Office management was cooking the books so far as describing service delivery was concerned.

The WIA grants require quarterly reports on all clients, and the deadlines for these reports generate much pressure from Central Office to submit reports that will be viewed as a “positive” rather than as a “negative.”

I can tell you that the Central Office is carrying on its books as clients people who haven’t been seen or located in months.

The Central Office pressures field staff to report that these clients are participating in the program regardless. My refusal to do so was among the last straws before my employment was terminated on October 20.

In one case in the Gresham office, OHDC has reported the client’s SSN incorrectly for more than a year. I discovered the error in the days before my firing. The client’s correct (and legal) number is in the file on the client’s tax return, but every OHDC document going back to mid-2007 shows an incorrect number.

OHDC Central Office management is scrambling right now, trying to figure out how to correct this and still look good to the funders, with backdating among the top strategies.

I am aware of another case in the Gresham office where the client’s SSN belongs to another person. OHDC Central Office has taken no action.

Recently, a number of Central Office and field office staff attended a national farmworker conference in Washington, D.C. No information about the conference has been shared with employees who did not attend, but what has been disclosed is that drunkenness and poor conference attendance were issues there, with some employees disciplined and others not for the same offense.

Lastly, for the purpose of this writing, I want to blow the whistle one more time!

At a meeting convened at the Central Office on October 2, Fernando Guttierrez, OHDC’s long time Workforce Development Manager disclosed that “Ron and Chris are running the OHDC WIA grant in Nevada privately. That’s their own thing.”

Ron Hauge is OHDC’s mostly-absent Executive Director and Chris Evans holds the title of Community Resource Program Manager, although he neither manages or is aware of any actual community resources, by his own admission.

The Nevada operation was shocking news; as I had been researching OHDC and WIA issues all summer and had not come upon a scintilla of information to tie OHDC and Nevada.

There is no mention of Nevada on OHDC’s website, or in any internal communication. There do not appear to be any Nevada offices, and a Google search comes up empty.

How does a farmworker in Nevada access OHDC’s services?

I have filed a harassment complaint against Fernando Guttierrez and Ron Hauge with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, and I am talking to an investigator from the Department of Justice.

I will also send this posting to the group that received my three June letters.

Maybe this time they will take it seriously enough to show up and look through the files themselves.

Viva Cesar Chavez!!!

Sean Cruz
October 22, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

NW Airedale Rescue names 2008 Rescue Poster Boy: Rex


Salem-based dog rescue organization honors blind pooch “for his guts and Airedale spirit.”

Read the story, in the words of the man who saved him, here:

http://www.nwairedalerescue.org/

Link to Rex’s Page:

http://www.rexspage.blogspot.com

Sean Cruz is Rex’s seeing-eye person:

http://www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com






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Sunday, October 19, 2008

AFSCME-Gate, Oregon Senate District 23 and a word about ethics and lobbyists

You be the judge!

You are a candidate for public office (Senate District 23); invited to appear before a powerful union endorsement panel for an interview (AFSCME).

You recognize that the union has endorsed your opponent (Jackie Dingfelder) in the past, but since you have worked successfully with the union’s professional lobbyists across a wide range of issues for the past several years, you have an expectation that you will be treated fairly and honestly.

Your opponent is a sitting legislator, chairs a powerful House committee, and has earned notoriety for being the hardest-charging full-time campaigner in Oregon history. You are a huge underdog, irrespective of the fact that you are well qualified for the job. What can she/they possibly be afraid of?

You learn a few days before the interview that your opponent’s spouse (Tom Gainer) is an AFSCME organizer. Given the different surnames of the couple, it is a relationship that few outsiders are aware of, most importantly the constituents of Senate District 23.

Here is the question: Does the powerful union endorsement panel have a duty to disclose the conflict of interest?

I believe that they do….

Going into the interview, which took place at the AFSCME offices on January 25, 2008, I pondered bringing up the question, but decided to give the interviewers the opportunity to act honestly and with integrity, a test which they failed miserably and with smiles on their faces.

The interview proceeded cordially and ended with a nice round of applause, but no disclosure.

I can tell you that my opinion of the AFSCME lobbyists changed dramatically at the conclusion of the interview, but I made no mention of it.

I never heard from them again.

Months later, during the Williamette Week interview, my opponent disclosed (somewhat uncomfortably) that her largest campaign contribution ($ 5,000) came from AFSCME and that her husband, Tom Gainer, was an AFSCME organizer.

The disclosure raised some eyebrows around the W Week table, but the paper failed to follow up the lead.

The AFSCME endorsement and cash contribution helped the Dingfelder/Gainer campaign garner other endorsements and contributions, including several thousand dollars’ worth of free wine, used to fuel still more fund-raising and glad-handing activities. Parrrr-ty!!!

All of the other union and special-interest organizations followed the AFSCME lead in this race, which explains how the unions locked up in support of Jackie Dingfelder.

She was able to raise a campaign war chest in excess of $ 100,000, more than ten times any other legislative race in the state, not to mention the large hoard of free alcohol.

On the surface, the endorsements seem to demonstrate broad support, that the AFSCME endorsement was decided on the merits of the respective candidates, and that is the illusion the Dingfelder/Gainer campaign has fought hard to create.

But the reality is that it was (and is) an inside job.

AFSCME gains a seat in the Oregon Senate.

What this means for the constituents of Senate District 23 and all Oregonians has yet to be seen.

Lots of campaign promises to be kept; legions of lobbyists to satisfy….

There still may be some free booze left….

If not, they know where to get more….

Vote yes on Measure 65, Open Primaries!!!

If you want to upset the applecart, and bring real change to the Oregon Legislature, write in Sean Cruz for Senate District 23.

--Sean Cruz, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Anatomy of a Portland patrol towing empire

A Blogolitical Sean reader provided the following information in a comment on an earlier post, “Portland tow truck set on fire!”:

=====================

towmater said...

Let me give you a couple more things to think about.

These are all the companies owned by a Mr. Gary Coe:

(1) Private Parking Auditors: Patrols parking lots and writes tickets, calls for Retriever for the tows.

(2) Retriever Towing: tows cars for parking infractions, patrols parking lots and handles district 3 police calls. Has two impound lots and shares three of Speeds Supertow's four lots.

(3) Oregon Lien: Puts liens on the impounded cars so that they can be auctioned. They do this for both Speeds and Retriever within about a week of being impounded.

(4) Speeds Auction Yard: Sells the cars not picked up from auction. For both Speeds and Retriever. They also auction cars for just about every charity you could imagine, not for free though.

(5) Speeds Supertow: Normal Towing. You call they come get you. They also handle police calls for district 5 and 8. They charge more than any other tow in town and they give a 20% discount to dealerships and shops. The dealerships and shops in turn charge full price to the cars owner for the tow and make a nice profit for picking speeds.

(6) Fleet Sales West: Custom makes tow trucks and towing equipment. They're the only one in town, so everyone goes to them or has it brought from out of state. They're also called Golden West Towing in California.

(7) Speeds Auto Service: Does all the fleet maintenance for not only the tow trucks but all Gary's other companies and they'll turn a wrench for people off the street. They're also a car dealership for the nicer cars.

(8) Speeds Auto Body: Does all the body work for the fleet of tow trucks and anyone they bump into.

(9) Auto Adventure: Chops cars up for parts and sells those parts nation wide.

(10) Coe Consulting: Sells the secrets to Gary Coe's success in twelve easy steps.

(11) Cascade Coach Town Cars: Drives people around like a taxi but for a lot more.

(12) Pacific Executive Service town cars: Also does the expensive taxi service but mostly to the airport.

Gary has the American dream, a monopoly. He has his fingers in three police districts. No other tow company can claim that inside Portland. He has over fifty trucks (all new) and six impound yards total. Bigger than anyone else in the State of Oregon. Gary controls a lions share of the contracts with dealerships and shops through 20% discount/kick backs. Gary also has his own lobbyist in the Oregon Legislature and has been President of several towing organizations.

The Tow Truck Drivers are poor and manipulated. They make commission off the tow. So its in there best interest to tow a lot and bend the rules, speed, cut corners.

They have no Union, no medical benefits. Most will be hurt several times on the job and will only last a couple of years.

None of these drivers have certification or CDLs. Their training is in-house or if they're lucky a traveling trainer (NATA) will come through town and give them some wall paper. Nobody ever fails those schools and they’re hosted on company property.

All these driver's sign a non-disclosure when hired so they can never speak about the truth.

They Drive 12 to 14 hours a day and have 24 hour on call shifts which means they are on the road more than a driver with a CDL legally could be. Big Rigs are only allowed to drive for eleven hours and they have to keep a log. Many of these Tow trucks are as big as a semi truck too.

Yes, many of these driver's are rude. But under these conditions who wouldnt be. Everybody hates them including their boss, they get little sleep, sacrifice there families, make $30,000 a year for it and are constantly exposed to stress and confrontations.

I hope you'll take all this to heart. I know it might not be printed do to libel concerns, but if you investigate it at all you'll see it's all fact. Thank You.

===============

Thanks to Towmater for providing this information.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Portland Poster Child for Open Primaries in Oregon: Senate District 23

The 2008 elections for Senate District 23 and its two House components, HD 45 and HD 46, illustrate perfectly the value to Oregonians of Measure 65.

When the voters of these three districts open their ballots, they will see that they have no real choice in who will represent them in the Oregon House and Senate.

Much like elections in the former Soviet bloc and in North Korea, one candidate is all the system needs to produce in order to validate the result.

The voters are losers not only because the present, partisan system denies them a choice on Election Day, but also because the candidates for these public offices are able to spend the entire period between the primary and the general election laying low, avoiding controversy, playing it safe, and public discourse is thus both stifled and irrelevant to the outcome.

The question of who will represent HD 46 was decided back at the March filing deadline, when Ben Cannon was the only applicant.

It is likely that other candidates would have been willing to step up and try to overcome the incumbent’s advantages if the system held out the possibility of a second shot at the title, but it does not do so and Mr. Cannon drew a double walk, May AND November.

The questions of House District 45 and Senate District 23 are an entirely different matter.

There were two or more applicants for each of these jobs in the primary, and under Measure 65 there would still be two candidates for each office in November, and thus a reason to educate voters and to be educated by voters.

Amazingly enough, at no time during the entire year were the candidates for Senate District 23 and House Districts 45 and 46 called upon to appear jointly for a public sizing-up.

One of the burning questions of the day that would have been of great interest to the constituents of SD 23, HD 45 and HD 46, since it involves two major streets that slice through the Senate district, is the street-renaming effort organized by the Committee-Once-Bent-on-Renaming-Interstate-Avenue.

The Committee is now making an assault on the entire lengths of Broadway and 39th Avenue, which run through the district, and Grand, which doesn’t.

None of the three candidates in the November General Election have had diddly-wink to say about the renaming effort, doubtlessly because they do not want to risk losing the support of the still-secret members of the Chavez Boulevard Committee, but it is a legitimate subject for public discussion.

The constituents have good reason to want to know where the candidates stand on the issue.

The fact that the street-renaming Avenistas have chosen the path most likely to frustrate and anger the residents of the streets in question makes the question all the more important to voters.

Of the available options under city code, the Avenistas have opted not to talk to the residents, but to gather signatures from across the city….

…and the fact that Jackie Dingfelder was the lone legislator who supported renaming Interstate Avenue last fall (see link below) would seem to indicate that she also supports renaming one or more of these streets after Cesar Chavez, but who knows?

The lone candidates for HD 45 and HD 46 aren’t saying, either.

=========================

The Oregonian Editorial Board on Measure 65:

“Voters would be better able to choose their true representatives by approving Measure 65 and adopting the "top-two" open primary.”

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2008/10/open_oregons_primaries.html

=====================

Letters in support of renaming Interstate Avenue:

http://www.cesarechavezboulevard.com/letters.pdf

======================

Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean:www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The prophetic words of George W. Bush, "last throes", and political capital

PORTLAND--As the presidency of George W. Bush enters ‘the last throes’ stage (to borrow from The Immortal Words of Dick Cheney*), leaving our children and grandchildren an inheritance of trillion-dollar debt, the world economy in collapse, an exhausted military and depleted National Guard, the nation mired in two wars on the other side of the globe, a still-devastated New Orleans and Gulf Coast, fifty million Americans without health care, and the prospect of holiday layoffs looming large for millions more, I recall the words that lept out at me during Mr. Bush’s first press conference following his 2004 election.

Mr. Bush: “…You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style…I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it….”**

At the time, these words and the cavalier way in which he expressed them, caused me great concern; they were going to lead to a bad end, I thought, and here we are….

To begin with, he did not have the mandate he believed he had, and thus was beginning his second term wildly overestimating his political capital*** bank account.

Even with both houses of Congress firmly in Republican control, he had no margin for profligacy, but he was unaware of the fact….

Secondly, the man was notoriously intellectually lazy and—-prior to the 9-11 attacks-—was setting new records for presidential time away from the office, a largely-overlooked character flaw that he had displayed throughout his entire working life.

Mr. Bush’s efforts—-and the nation’s well-being—-would be saddled by a mind incapable of thinking too deeply or for a prolonged period of time, and by a will to work hard that was far weaker than the standard that the job requires.

The man famously celebrated his own mediocrity….

This created the vacuum that Dick Cheney was all too eager to fill, and here we are.

In recent past elections, Republicans succeeded in large part because they were able to sidetrack the issues that matter by mounting character attacks against their opponents and focusing the debate on issues like gay marriage in the weeks leading up to the day ballots are due.

This time, that strategy won’t work. The character attacks, the side issues, all will be overcome by the gravity of the multiple crises we face today, that we know we will face for years to come.

Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the United States, sweeping Democrats into office all across the nation.

The mandate for change will be clear; there will be no need to send the question of who will lead the nation to the Supreme Court as occurred in 2000, The Year That Democracy Failed….

From the Bush Presidency forward, the only way to go is up, back up….

--Sean Cruz
October 12, 2008

===================================
*Iraq insurgency in 'last throes,' Cheney says
Monday, June 20, 2005, WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The insurgency in Iraq is "in the last throes," Vice President Dick Cheney says, and he predicts that the fighting will end before the Bush administration leaves office.
==================================
**In his first press conference after the November 2004 election, George W. Bush spoke about political capital:

Q Do you feel more free, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, in terms of feeling free, well, I don't think you'll let me be too free. There's accountability and there are constraints on the presidency, as there should be in any system. I feel -- I feel it is necessary to move an agenda that I told the American people I would move. Something refreshing about coming off an election, even more refreshing since we all got some sleep last night, but there's -- you go out and you make your case, and you tell the people this is what I intend to do. And after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view, and that's what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the President, now let's work to -- and the people made it clear what they wanted, now let's work together.

And it's one of the wonderful -- it's like earning capital. You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror (emphasis added).

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/11/20041104-5.html

================================

***America's New Political Capital: President Bush infects Washington with his favorite buzzword. By Chris Suellentrop, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004

(excerpted)

We've become accustomed to talking about all kinds of abstract capital in recent years—human capital, social capital, intellectual capital—but Bush's definition of political capital makes the metaphor particularly inapt. For one, you don't spend capital. You invest it. But Bush's understanding of the idea dictates that it be spent rather than saved. As Karl Rove put it in 2001, "If you don't spend it, it's not like treasure stuck away at a storehouse someplace. It is perishable. It dwindles away." What kind of economic message is that from a president who wants to encourage an ownership society?

The question the Post asked in 1993—what in the world is political capital, anyway?—still hasn't been answered satisfactorily. Why, for example, didn't Bill Clinton have capital to spend on health care, in Bush's view, but he had some to spend elsewhere, apparently? Does any other kind of capital have restrictions on where and how it can be used? Edward J. L√≥pez, an economist at the University of North Texas, delineated two types of political capital in a 2002 paper for the Review of Austrian Economics: "reputational" capital, a politician's "standing with voters and other unorganized interests," and "representative" capital, which includes the powers that stem from a politician's office. But Bush doesn't mean anything that rigorous. In fact, he'd probably scoff at the idea. He just uses it as a substitute for the goodwill that an election gives an executive with the legislature, and he probably likes the way it paints him as a CEO-president.

The president doesn't have any capital, and he knows it. Like a citizen of Weimar Germany, he has a wheelbarrow full of hyper-inflating cash that has to be spent before it becomes worthless. "Political Confederate dollars" doesn't have quite the ring of "political capital," but it's a better metaphor. Any takers?

http://www.slate.com/id/2110256/

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sean Cruz sends a shout-out to Lars Larson!

Portland, Oregon--

Lars Larson and the Big Time (a poem)

Lars, I saw your bit on the Larry King show
Seems he had never heard of you
You impressed him with your comments
Enough to draw a grimace or two
An idiot working a small-time fringe
And a buffoon to boot, so told
The dancing eyebrows
How did this nut get in here?

--Sean Cruz

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Portland Oregon: Sean Cruz thanks Governor Sara Palin!

Notes on the Vice-Presidential Debate:

Governor Palin’s sentences are mostly unpunctuated by commas or periods, words fly out by the bucketful....

She changes direction mid-paragraph, mid-sentence, mid-thought, without appearing to notice that she is genuinely superficial across a wide spectrum of issues....

For the first time in my life, I feel reasonably qualified to assume the duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Vice President of the United States of America.

It took a B.A in Political Science, six years of hard work in the Oregon Senate, the encouragement and support of the incumbent and many others, and the recognition of the Oregonian editorial board for me to feel qualified to serve in the Oregon Senate, representing Senate District 23.

But, in less than an hour this evening, I realized that if Sara Palin is qualified for the VP job, then so am I!

Fantastic!

To be clear, I wouldn’t take the VP job if it were offered.

…but it is somehow validating to find myself qualified for such high office

Thank you, Governor!

And no matter what anyone says, you are every bit as smart as Dan Quayle.

Don’t let them tell you otherwise.


Sample:

IFILL: Governor, are you interested in defending Sen. McCain's health care plan?

PALIN: I am because he's got a good health care plan that is detailed. And I want to give you a couple details on that. He's proposing a $5,000 tax credit for families so that they can get out there and they can purchase their own health care coverage. That's a smart thing to do. That's budget neutral. That doesn't cost the government anything as opposed to Barack Obama's plan to mandate health care coverage and have universal government run program and unless you're pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don't think that it's going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds. But a $5,000 health care credit through our income tax that's budget neutral. That's going to help. And he also wants to erase those artificial lines between states so that through competition, we can cross state lines and if there's a better plan offered somewhere else, we would be able to purchase that. So affordability and accessibility will be the keys there with that $5,000 tax credit also being offered.

That’s a health plan?

Link to the complete debate transcript:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/02/debate.transcript/index.html