Monday, July 02, 2007

Another O Johnson Story--More Missing Relevant Info

On June 22, the Oregonian published its latest piece on Betsy Johnson. It was a fairly lengthy and in at least one case flawed look at the State Senator from Scappoose.

First, the O trots out the consistently debunked financial numbers on Johnson's 2005 land deal:

But the image she has built as a selfless champion of her district has been scuffed by the revelation that she made a fast $119,000 in a land deal with a developer she has repeatedly aided. She then failed to disclose the deal as state law requires.

Johnson yielded about $45-50K from that deal. No matter how many times reporters click their heels together and write otherwise, $119k is incorrect.

Along with the consistently incorrect financial figures are the stories consistently lacking perspective (as well as using questionable sources for quotes) on articles accusing Johnson of wrongdoing. For example, the above cited Oregonian piece goes here:

In 1993, Vernonia businessman Tim Bero wanted to develop an aviation business park adjacent to the Scappoose airport. He needed Port of St. Helens approval for a "through the fence" permit so planes could come and go between the airport and his development.

The Port Commission -- with Johnson on the board -- would decide whether he got the permit.

"The day before the vote, Betsy called me and told me I had to line up behind her to fight this gravel pit or she would fight my plan," Bero said.

He refused and says Johnson led a successful fight against him -- leaving her husband's business holding the airport's only "through the fence" permit.

It's entirely possible that Bero had this conversation with Johnson. I have no proof that it didn't take place. But based on the date Bero is using in the quote above, his accusations makes little sense.

For Bero to get the "through the fence" permit in 1993, he went through the Scappoose Industrial Airpark Advisory Board, which makes its recommendation to the Port Commission. Based on the November 1993 Advisory Board meeting minutes (PDF--start on page 3), Johnson was a champion of Bero's proposal, going so far as to recommend that it be considered. Bero's answers to the Board's questions about his business seem vague at best, yet Johnson is quite clearly not speaking out against it.

The Board met again in January of 1994 and again spoke about Bero's proposal. Opposition to the Bero proposal came from Jim Wold and not Betsy Johnson, based on the meeting minutes. It's possible that Wold and Johnson could have colluded to hatch up a submarining of Bero's efforts. But based on the dates Bero is citing and Johnson's articulated support, it doesn't seem likely.

I also spoke with Airport Advisory Board member Mike Griesen--who says that the Advisory Board wanted to work with Bero to get his "through the fence" access in a way that would satisfy the FAA. Griesen said that at no time did anyone ask him to not support Bero's proposal. Griesen also told me that to his knowledge, no one asked any of the Board members to not support Bero's "through the fence" permit.

Once again, these stories accusing Johnson of wrongdoing (in this case blackmail) don't seem to include pertinent information. It would seem relevant to check with the Airport Advisory Board to find out what really happened to Bero's "through the fence" permit, rather than just accepting his word--yet that doesn't seem to have happened.