Two weeks ago, it was reported that the club manager for The Vue had attributed a recent spate of downtown violence to African Americans. In a disturbing email that The Vue's manager, Rami Makboul, sent to Mayor Tom Potter, he wrote "[African Americans] do belong to Northeast Portland and they need not to be encouraged in any way to come to downtown." In excerpts from the email published in Willamette Week, Makboul also claimed that an OLCC agent had made similar racist comments.
In turn, that off-hand remark sparked a spirited discussion on commissioner Sam Adams' blog. One posting urged Adams to request an investigation, which, in fact, Adams has done.
Teresa Kaiser, OLCC's executive director, responded quickly, writing to Adams that the "OLCC has a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination."
Ken Palke, an OLCC spokesperson, went further, telling the Mercury that the OLCC has launched an investigation.
"We're trying to get a name," Palke explained. "We believe that it was sometime eight years ago. Certainly we're not going to stop looking. We don't condone racism."
But this is not the first time that OLCC has been accused of racism. Five years ago, Robert Larry, the manager for King Liquor in Northeast Portland, accused OLCC agents of harassing him. Larry was one of only three African Americans who managed OLCC stores in the state. He claimed that two agents filed a complaint against him, alleging that he sold liquor without carding potentially underage patrons. But when Larry produced a surveillance tape countering that allegation, the charges disappeared.
A few years later, the OLCC said that Larry had several accounting errors and owed them $40,000. During testimony in front of the OLCC, Larry claimed, "What you have before you is the modern day lynching of a black man."
The OLCC's investigation into allegations that an agent made racist comments is ongoing.