CITY COMMISSIONER RANDY Leonard faces a subpoena to appear in court on September 9 to defend his murky "Service Coordination Team" scheme against claims that it could be unconstitutional.
Leonard requested $840,709 in taxpayer dollars from the budget last fall to expand the city's five-year-old Service Coordination Team (SCT) effort. The SCT relies on a list of offenders—known as the Neighborhood Livability Crime Enforcement Program (NLCEP) list—to target the top 30 arrestees each month in downtown, inner Northeast, and inner Southeast Portland for special attention. This can include drug treatment, but also may mean harsher prosecution than those not on the list, for committing some of the same crimes.
The Mercury first wrote about the NLCEP list back in April, when it emerged that 52 percent of those on the then 408-strong list were African American, while African Americans make up six percent of the local population ["Blacklisted," News, April 24]. But in May, the Mercury discovered that despite the city's effort and a considerable amount of money being invested in the program, the criteria for getting on and off the NLCEP list isn't written down anywhere ["The Policy that Wasn't There," News, May 22].
Bill Sinnott, the former director of the Portland Business Alliance's (PBA) Clean and Safe program, is now heading up the SCT at the police bureau. He admitted in May that the criteria for getting on the list isn't written down, because "we've just been so busy that we've not had a chance to put it in an official form like that yet." He set a target date to have a written policy by July 1, but with that deadline having passed, the city appears no closer to making the policy any clearer.
Sinnott, along with fellow program administrators Deputy City Attorney David Woboril and Old Town cop Jeff Myers, all failed to respond to the Mercury's requests for clarification of the SCT's policies by press time. Deputy District Attorney David Hannon told the Mercury that there is a policy in place, but did not provide it by press time.
Oddly, in response to an August 15 public records request for all written communication to and from Leonard's office on the SCT's policies, Leonard's Chief of Staff Ty Kovatch told the Mercury on Tuesday, August 18, that their office does "not have any written communications on this matter." When asked to clarify, Kovatch pointed us elsewhere: "The mayor is in charge of the Portland Police Bureau," he wrote in an email. (The mayor's office did not return a call for comment on the SCT, either.)
Yet despite deferring to the mayor's office—and now appearing to claim limited involvement with the program—Leonard has been outspoken, verging on misty-eyed, about his brainchild in the past. For example, Leonard commented extensively about the program on Blogtown (blogtown.portlandmercury.com) as early as January 11 this year, writing, "The motivating factor behind my approach of getting people with addictions or mental illness into treatment is my belief that all people, including those who find themselves living on the street, can and should be given a chance to live a happy, productive, and prosperous life."
Public defender Chris O'Connor served Leonard a subpoena to appear in court to defend the program based on his January 11 Blogtown comments on February 4 this year. But O'Connor's client failed to appear, which means Leonard's program has gone unchallenged in court—until now.
Janet Strachan, 50, has good reason to believe she is on Leonard's list, but can't be sure because the district attorney's office has refused to even confirm or deny the list's existence in response to public records requests. Strachan's name, race, and date of birth do appear on a list of names—which appears to be the nebulous NLCEP list—obtained by the Mercury in May.
Strachan has lived in Old Town for much of her life, including stints at the seedy West Wind and Rich hotels. She has been enrolled in Multnomah County's STOP program—a court-mandated drug treatment program—since January, doing well at getting clean despite what her attorney, Lisa Pardini, describes as "a few burbles here and there."
On March 5, Strachan was arrested for alleged possession of cocaine residue in a crack pipe in Old Town—an offense that would normally be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. But presumably because of Strachan's status on Leonard's list, she is being prosecuted for a felony.
Pardini has served Leonard, Sinnott, Hannon, and Myers with subpoenas to appear in court on September 9, Strachan's trial date, to explain why she is being charged more harshly because of her presumed presence on the secret list.
Pardini has also prepared two motions to dismiss the case against Strachan, both based on the Oregon Constitution. The first is a motion to dismiss on the basis of equal privileges: In other words, the idea that all citizens should be treated equally, regardless of whether or not your name is on a list of prior arrestees. The second is a motion to dismiss on the basis of due process, which according to the Oregon Constitution is the idea that "every man shall have remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation."
Strachan feels she is being targeted for special treatment by the state in an arbitrary manner without being able to challenge the state's reasons why. In 1998, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that even convicted sex criminals could not be placed on a list without having the opportunity to challenge the state's procedures and reasons for doing so. Based on that, Pardini is confident about winning Strachan's upcoming case in court.
"And since nobody is even admitting there's a list," Pardini says, "I don't see how they can charge Janet with a felony for what is usually charged as a misdemeanor. It doesn't make sense."
In addition, Strachan was initially stopped on March 5 by a rent-a-cop working for the PBA's private security firm, Portland Patrol, Inc. ["Trust Me, I'm a Rent-a-Cop," Feature, May 3, 2007]. That makes Pardini particularly uncomfortable about the role of Leonard's secret list in supporting PBA-sponsored gentrification in the district.
"I'm sure if Janet lived up on the West Hills, she wouldn't be on this list," Pardini continues. "I'm sure that something about it has to do with the Portland Business Alliance and their efforts to clean up the streets in Old Town. They're going after the people who, historically, have lived there."