Category Archive: Claims against Government

  1. Oregon Public Bodies are NOT above Oregon law Protecting Whistle Blowers.

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    Oregon public employers are subject to Oregon laws protecting employees, confirmed the Oregon Court of Appeals last week in Burley v. Clackamas County.

    Galina Burley sued her employer, Clackamas County.  She alleged it retaliated against her for reporting the county improperly used federal grant money.  A jury agreed and awarded her $386,916.  The county said, “Not so fast, we don’t think the law applies to us.”

    One of the laws in question makes it unlawful for an “employer” to retaliate “for the reason that the employee has in good faith reported information that the employee believes is evidence of a violation of a state or federal law, rule or regulation.”  ORS 659A.199.  The employee can be wrong about whether the employer broke the law. The employee must only have a good faith belief the employer violated the law.

    The county argued “employer” means private employer only, not public employer.  It pointed to some words in the legislative history suggesting private employees needed this protection.  But the court of appeals said, Read the dang statutes; they’re clear as can be.

    ORS 659A.001 defines “Employer” as “any person” in the state who engages or uses the personal service of one or more employees.  It then defines “person” to include “public body.”  Game over.  Pay the woman.  And now, pay her the additional tens of thousands it cost for the appeal.

    Whether one likes it or not, Oregon public employers must follow state laws that protect whistleblowers.  According to Burley v. Clackamas County, they must follow ALL other employment laws under that whole chapter of the statutes (ORS 659A), which controls so many of the rights of employees.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    I help people with claims against government.
    ©2019 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.
  2. Domicile known. Deaths in “low-barrier” housing add to questions about homeless policy.

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    Bud Clark Commons housed 259 previously homeless people between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018.  Thirty-eight of them died there.  That’s nearly 15%.  Police dispatch records reveal 872 calls for service to its address: 15 for some of the deaths plus for numerous disturbances, some “with weapons,” thefts, assaults and many other reasons between January 2015 and July 2018.  Is Bud Clark Commons a feel-good model that taxpayers should replicate?  Or is it time to steal best practices used by other cities?

    The Housing Authority of Portland, doing business as  “Home Forward,” manages Bud Clark Commons. It provides 130 apartments, including for people suffering from addiction.  “Low-barrier” housing or shelters means we expect little from guests, and they are free to continue suffering from addiction.  Housing first is the best approach for helping people because treatment is more likely to work if people have stable housing.  However, the type and location of housing is very important.  Bud Clark Commons is within walking distance of drug-selling predators in Portland’s last open drug market.  Residents may walk a couple of blocks, get their drugs, come home and die in their own apartments.  The public records did not indicate how many of the the 38 deaths were from overdoses or conditions exacerbated by drugs.

    In the mid-20th century, housing authorities built projects in which they placed together low-income and welfare-dependent people.  We learned “the projects” are not the most fertile places for success.  The opposite is true.  Yet, here we are in 2019 continuing to provide mass shelters or housing where we group together service-dependent and drug-dependent people.  Successful cities find and create better housing options.

    In 2017, Multnomah County reported 4,177 homeless people on its point-in-time census.  Multnomah County also reported 79 deaths of homeless people in its report entitled “Domicile Unknown.”  That’s about 1.9%, which is about twice the death rate for Portland.

    Chair Kafoury and homeless advocates use the annual “Domicile Unknown” report to argue we must build more shelters or projects.  Every citizen knows we have problems.  The report merely inflames the debate, distracting from the real question of whether the approach pursued by Chair Kafoury and Mayor Wheeler is the best one.

    It cost us $253,000 per studio apartment to build Bud Clark Commons in 2011.  I do not know much it costs to operate.  Other jurisdictions found success reducing the numbers of unsheltered people by starting with audits:  Are we getting good results for the dollars spent?  Then, they re-direct money to more effective strategies.  Meanwhile, we in Oregon uncritically do more of the same, resulting in our dismal rankings among states plus the District of Columbia.  Oregon ranks 51 out of 51 for sheltering families with children, 49 of 51 for veterans, 47 of 51 for unaccompanied youth, and 50/51 homeless, cumulatively.

    Our leaders need to do more than appear at ground-breaking photo / video-ops and brag about spending more money every time they expand a service-dependent ghetto or seed a new one.  They should audit existing programs, listen to neighbors and adopt best practices in a transparent process.

    Jeff Merrick

  3. Replicating Failed Policy of Mass Shelters Perpetuates Human Suffering and Kills Neighborhoods.

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    Contents

    1. Homelessness: Oregon is the Model of Failure.
    2. What is our current policy making process.
    3. What do successful jurisdictions do differently?
    4. What does the past teach us about what works and what does not work?

    A. Concentrating service-dependent people creates ghettos that are unhealthful for the people served and for the neighborhood.
    B. Mass shelters provide fertile ground for the spread of contagious disease.
    C. Work programs work.
    D. Open LEADERSHIP founded upon data and performance is critical to success
    E. Housing First, NOT Mass Shelters

    5. What can mere citizens do?

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  4. “Leaders” continue to dodge good ideas from concerned citizens.

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    On July 31, I was pleased to participate in the meeting of citizens concerned about the proposed low-barrier homeless shelter across the street from a schoolhouse on SE Foster.  Although South East Allied Communities invited public officials, no public official attended or sent a representative.

    Officials continue their approach of not wanting public input that might offer insights not raised behind closed doors by the usual suspects or at steering committee meetings of people hand-picked by officials.  Continued inbreeding only spawns more of the same policy that has caused Oregon to rank 49 of 51 (states plus District of Columbia) in sheltering homeless.

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