Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More duping on the Johnson saga, this time via Pete Williamson

TJ explained yesterday why we think its entirely possible that Willy Week is being duped on the stories surrounding State Senator Betsy Johnson by a direct (or indirect) source, Greg Jenks.

The other link in the staff source chain is perhaps the more prominent one: former Port of St. Helens Executive Director Pete Williamson. Williamson was quoted several times in the O's initial story.

Former Scappoose Spotlight Editor and Publisher Art Heerwagon (who reported on this saga for the 12 years he worked on the paper) noted to me that when Johnson came on as a St. Helens Port Commissioner, there was "slipshod" work happening that the commissioners weren't aware of. Former Port Commissioner Pat Zimmerman held a similar impression. "Petey" was "absolutely incompetent" and "waging a personal vendetta against Johnson".

Heerwagon also told me that when Johnson came on as a Port Commissioner, she wanted to see the Port run like a business. This interfered with Mr. Williamson's desire to run things the way he wanted, and the two clashed.

According to Port Commissioner Colleen Deshazer, Johnson wrote a negative job performance review for Williamson--and Williamson was extremely unhappy about it. Williamson went so far as to move to have the review purged from his personnel file. Deshazer says that Johnson claimed Williamson wasn't doing his job. Deshazer also notes that afterward Williamson spent "significant amounts of time trying to undermine everything Betsy did" in regard to the Port, whether it was beneficial to the Port or not. And that included SB680.

In fact Deshazer mentioned that the opposition to SB680 from the Port came strictly from Williamson and Jenks, NOT from the Port Commissioners.

Further, Deshazer says that the Oregonian has only part of the story when it says:

The Scappoose airport already allowed for such access to the company owned by Johnson's husband. But the port's then-executive director, Williamson, said he and the staff at the Port of St. Helens had balked at expanding "through the fence" access and considered recommending that the permit held by Johnson's husband expire.

According to Deshazer, the only individuals considering eliminating the permit held by Johnson's husband was Williamson and possibly Jenks. Port Commissioner Earl Fisher confirmed this to me as well. At no time was the Port Commission considering removing that permit--and since they're the ones with the say, that's the body that actually matters. In fact, Williamson's move to try and end the permit is what prompted the Port Commission to reaffirm its long held "through the fence access" in May 2005, according to Deshazer.

Commissioner Earl Fisher also tells a similar story. "This information being fed to papers comes from a group of folks who've had a bad relationship with Betsy Johnson for years". Fisher also said that this same type of issue has surfaced several times with this same group of people.

Fisher said that in March or April of 2006, an attempt was made by a County Commissioner to suggest that the airport park go back to the county for gas stations. Fisher says that this was an attempt to "poke a stick at Betsy" because she sells the gas at the cheapest price possible--and that the suggestion to do this went to the County Commissioner via a Port employee: Pete Williamson.

Fisher also says that when SB680 came before the Port Commission for consideration, the Commission chastized both Williamson and Jenks for "spending copious time trying to link Johnson's role to her personal profit".

Fisher continued by saying that Williamson had ongoing disagreements with Johnson and that Johnson was instrumental in having Williams fired as the Scappoose City Planner.

Both Fisher and Deshazer told me that a report was done about Williamson and Jenks in late August or September of 2006. Fisher said that it was done by Rick Liebman's office. Documents relating to this report were released to the Scappoose Spotlight based on a Freedom of Information Act request, but Fisher says only part of the report was released.

In addition, all 3 commissioners noted that complaints were made about Greg Jenks to Pete Williamson and that Williamson did nothing of note to rectify the problems.

When asked about the land sale between Johnson and Freeman, Zimmerman said that there were no improprieties or ethically questionable practices surrounding the deal and the legislative efforts on SB680. "Betsy has acted completely in the best interest of the community, and I think this whole thing with Mr. Williamson is personal revenge on his part.", said Zimmerman. Heerwagon had a similar answer, "The sale of the land to Freeman had nothing to do with SB680". Deshazer: "Betsy's goal was to preserve the airport's ability to expand economically". Deshazer also said that she believes the sale and subsequent legislative attempts by Johnson aren't related and are above board. Fisher indicated a similar sentiment.

So what we have here is the word of a couple of folks (and perhaps their intermediaries) with a serious ax to grind going after Johnson versus a list of folks with no reason to lie saying Johnson didn't do anything wrong.

Who's duping who, here?