Friday, May 25, 2007

Carla the contract killer--Updated

[Updated--see bottom of post]

Last week I noticed this story on the Merc's Blogtown about an interesting piece in the paper Street Roots:

Street Roots reporters found that Portland Patrol Inc. (PPI) gets paid $439,824 a year by the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) to provide order maintenance services in the downtown core, but when they asked to see the contract between the PBA and PPI, they were refused, despite the city’s contract with the PBA stating that “contractors and subcontractors shall make all records relating to the contract available to the city.” So a supposedly public contract is being kept under wraps.

Stuff like this really pushes my irritation button. When the public is entitled to information, they ought to have access to it. It chaps me to no end when it doesn't happen.

That said, I'm completely unfamiliar with the PBA's contract with the City of Portland. So I contacted Commissioner Randy Leonard after reading the piece, to find out:
A. If the contract is really supposed to be made available to the public
B. If he could get a copy of it and pass it on to me so that I can view it.
Randy emailed Portland City Attorney Linda Meng to find out if the city is in fact entitled to a copy of the contract--and to obtain a copy for him if they are so entitled.

As it turns out, the contract is public information. And according to Matt Davis at the Merc, local newspaper folks have been trying to get a peek at this contract for about 6 months--presumably via the Portland Business Alliance.

It also turns out that Randy Leonard was able to get a copy of the contract to me three days ago.

The entirety of what was passed to me is 140 pages--and I don't have any way to make a PDF file out of it--I can only scan the individual pages and post them. Hence I'm posting just the parts that seem (so far) to be the most relevant to what Street Roots and The Merc are asking regarding the nature of the contractual relationship with PPI and PBA.

First, it looks as if the total compensation package for PPI isn't $439,824.

Unless I'm reading this wrong, it says that the total compensation for PPI is $935,256.00 for the 06/07 fiscal year.

There is an amendment to the original 2004 contract which is dated January 10, 2006. The amendment says that "the total amount of compensation shall be changed to $439,824 for parks" (emphasis Carla). That's up from $272,728.08 in the original 2004 contract. I think that's probably the number that was quoted to Street Roots for their original story--but its clearly NOT what PPI is being paid to provide the maintenance services to the downtown core. Street Roots' number is much lower.

Another interesting aspect to the contract is the geographical scope of PPI's patrols. According to what I've been able to glean from my read of it so far, these are the boundaries for the patrols:

Matt Davis told me earlier today that those patrols are also happening on the Esplanade over on the east side of the river.

Its possible (again) that I'm misunderstanding or misreading this contract. But so far, I see nothing that indicates to me either in the original contract or the subsequent amendments that the Esplanade is included.

Finally, there's the specific requirements for the patrols. What appears to be most relevant to the Street Roots/Merc investigation is what's on the pages below:I believe this page indicates what the patrol officers managing the Business Improvement District are supposed to do. Note 12.0:

Complete a morning wake up of all individuals who use sidewalk, and business doorways as sleeping locations.

Is it legal for these patrolers to wake homeless people from the public sidewalk and presumably get them to move?

The next two pages show that they patrols are supposed to do the same sorts of wakeups on the public sidewalks and pathways in the downtown parks (see 8.0 on page 45)

I'm planning to share this contract information with The Merc who has already asked for it and Street Roots (should they ask for it).

I don't have the resources here to conduct a proper investigation with all of the legal understandings necessary to do it right. So I'm passing this one off to the big kids. But I'll certainly keep track of what they find out.

I had initially noticed a line item on page 52 of the contract, requiring patrol officers to "attempt to stop offensive conduct wherever possible".

See 4b on the page--click picture to enlarge

Who is the arbiter of "offensive behavior"? Is it like porn? Do they know it when they see it?