- Mark Markovich
Portland City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero announced today that she's levying a fine of $2,000 against the company, stemming from its failure to report a lobbying arrangement with prominent political consultant Mark Wiener. An investigation by the auditor's office determined not only that Uber had failed to adequately report its affiliation with Wiener—who helped both Novick and Hales win office—but showed general "disregard for the Portland community."
"The public's trust is undermined when decision-makers and those trying to influence them don't report their activities," Hull Caballero said in a prepared statement. "In this case neither the elected officials nor Uber met their obligations."
The auditor's investigation stemmed from a December 2014 meeting between Hales, Novick, and Uber officials that occurred at Wiener's home. The meeting was hardly a secret—officials readily told media that it had occurred. But it didn't pop up in quarterly lobbying reports Uber is required to file with the city. And it didn't show up in the official public calendars of Hales or Novick.
In September, Hull Caballero announced she was letting the elected officials off with a warning for the infractions. But she's throwing the book at Uber—levying a maximum $500 fine for each of four violations she says the company committed. From her letter to Uber:
Beyond those individual breaches, Hale Caballero says Uber was just generally terrible at disclosing its lobbying maneuvers. Her letter to the company includes a laundry list of misdeeds, among them: that Uber lobbied officials without registering to do so, missed deadlines for lobbying reports, allowed "unnecessary delay" when asked for information about Wiener's involvement, didn't return calls from the Auditor's Office, "likely" turned in errant financial reports, and "failed the public."
The result of all that? Uber pays $2,000 (probably), but loses none of the new privileges it earned late last year, when City Council voted to modify city code to permanently allow for ride-hailing services.
Uber hasn't yet returned our request for comment.
Update, 3:30 pm: Uber issued the following statement: "As we acknowledged in our letter to the Portland Auditor, we discovered an internal administrative error in December and have amended our original lobbying report, corrected the record, and will pay the fine."
By the way: This isn't the only city fine Uber's facing. Novick's office said last year it would levy $2,500 in fines to the company for providing inadequate service to wheelchair-bound customers for a period of time in 2015.