A tort claim notice filed this spring by the city's fired chief administrative officer—filled with allegations of defamation, botched due process, and racial discrimination—likely won't be headed to court after all.
The Portland City Council on Wednesday, August 27, is expected to approve a $40,000 settlement with the former CAO, Jack Graham. That sum, according to city documents posted with next week's council agenda, is billed largely as a payment for Graham's private attorney fees. In exchange for the payment, Graham would give up on pressing claims, among others, that his competency was questioned because he was African American and that he was generally treated worse than his white subordinates by city officials.
Graham, formerly head of the city's Office of Management and Finance, was fired last November after a barrage of bad press driven by the Oregonian. Most prominent was a reporting that whistle-blowers had cautioned against a dubious $200,000 transfer of utility reserve funds in 2012. Graham has argued the transfer, if it hadn't been flagged, would have been legal and at a rare name-clearing hearing earlier this year, he pointed to a past example of such a transfer.
City Attorney Tracy Reeve was out of the office today and not immediately available for comment. A message left with one of Graham's attorneys, Dana Sullivan, was not returned. Briefing documents (pdf) filed with the city council say a preliminary review of Graham's allegations didn't fully substantiate what was said in his tort claim notice.
Graham had singled out Commissioners Steve Novick, Nick Fish, and Amanda Fritz for critical comments made in the O in the wake of reporting on the fund transfer and other clashes—involving former city controller Jane Kingston and one of the whistleblowers on the utility fund transfer, Rich Goward. He also detailed some shocking allegations about racial tension in internal emails and conversations in OMF.
Some observers had been hinting all along that whatever settlement Graham eventually received wouldn't match the spread and depth of his complaints. An agreement for $40,000 keeps the city from having to pay its attorneys potentially much more to have to defend against those claims—while also suggesting that Graham may have had a difficult time proving them in court, in that he might have held out for more money if he thought he stood a better chance of winning.