Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Port of Oakland Acting Director Issues Scandal Response

Port of Oakland Acting Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint has issued a written statement responding to recent allegations of misuse of port funds.

In an Oct. 25 letter, Ale Flint addressed accusations that maritime director James Kwon, a top aide to Executive Director Omar Benjamin, spent thousands of dollars in public money at a Texas strip club.

“The last week has been particularly challenging for our organization, our leadership, and our employees,” she wrote. “I am as disappointed as you are at the allegations of improper expenditures.”

Kwon is alleged to have spent $4,500 entertaining shipping executives at strip club in Houston, Texas called Treasures in 2008 during a business conference. Top port officials are also alleged to have spent more than $500 in public money last year at a private karaoke bar that local media reports say is a haven for prostitution.

Ale Flint said the issues are being thoroughly investigated and that the port intends to get to the bottom of the situation in order to ensure all that the organization is “operating in a safe, secure, legal, and ethical way.”

Thus far, no evidence of any kind of criminal activity has been found, she said.

Since the scandal broke earlier this month, the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners has placed Benjamin on paid administrative leave, and Kwon was put on leave by Ale Flint. Also, international law firm Arnold & Porter has been retained to serve as independent outside counsel in the on-going investigation.

“We will be as transparent as the law allows, releasing whatever information we uncover that we legally can,” Ale Flint said in the statement. “It is unfortunate that such circumstances led to this introspection, but we will come out of this a better and stronger organization for it.”