Tracking Police Reform and COAB Membership

Portland City Council will vote for or against Ordinance 870 August 26, which would almost double the contract of the Chicago-based duo of Rosenbaum & Watson LLP and their new Portland branch of former City Hall insiders Kathleen Saadat and Amy Ruiz. A city-paid-for administrative assistant supports Saadat and Ruiz in downtown offices supplied by the city.

The Mental Heath Association of Portland opposes expansion of the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison (COCL) contract – in scope or fees – at this time. Asking for a significant increase so soon shows the contractor failed to understand the scope of the contract or they intentionally underbid the contract. Also, the performance of Rosenbaum & Watson LLP has been less than stellar.

SEE – COCL & COAB baseline tasks & statistics, July 6
SEE – Rosenbaum & Watson LLP, May 28
SEE – Van Halen’s Lesson for the COCL / COAB, April 10

The original COCL contract to account for United States v. City of Portland is renewable for four additional years at $240,000 (plus an additional $75,000 for travel expenses), for a annual fee of $315,000 and a five year total of $1,575,000.

City Hall staffers who work daily with the Portland branch of the Chicago-based team, including former police officer Deanna Wesson-Mitchell and city attorney Ellen Osoinach testified at City Council August 18 that the Rosenbaum & Watson LLP contract should be increased by $218,000 to $458,000, for a five year total of $2,243,834. Rosenbaum & Watson LLP employee Kathleen Saadat, on the job for two months and admittedly overwhelmed, sat by while a city attorney testified her pay should be doubled.

The complexity of accounting for the 187 Settlement Agreement items was grossly underestimated by both the DOJ and the authors of the Settlement Agreement, thought to be former mayor Sam Adams, former police chief Mike Reese and former City Hall staffer Clay Neal. Once the Agreement was blessed by Federal Judge Michael Simon, community members were recruited for the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB) with an time commitment estimation of 10 hours per month. After just a couple of months of work, Saadat testified COAB members are working “10 hours a week and more.”

Five of the original fifteen voting members of the COAB have already resigned – a full 30%. They are replaced by people who have not participated with the COAB by a process which is not been made public. Four of the original fifteen members self-identified as a person with a mental illness. Two have resigned and were not replaced by peers, leaving two persons representing people with mental illness on the Board – 13%.

Here’s our scorecard – COAB MEMBERSHIP TRACKING. You may want to keep track at home.

Eds. Note – we wrote the COCL on August 17 with clarifying questions about the COAB membership and structure. They have yet to respond with answers (September 1).

The city, reminded by us it had never provided support to people with mental illness to allow full and equal participation in public process – a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, hired a “mental health specialist” in the spring. We’ve seen no evidence this “mental health specialist” has aided any persons with mental illness to participate or sustain in the COAB.

This issue – reducing undue force by police against people with mental illness – can be challenging for sustained thought by otherwise intelligent people utterly unfamiliar with it. We sense the topic acutely challenges Rosenbaum & Watson LLP and especially their new Portland branch, which dilutes the discussion by bringing irrelevant voices to the table. Instead of skill and capacity, the strategy seems to be expanding the problem with wide-ranging community satisfaction surveys and scheduling hundreds of grindingly boring public meetings.

We suspect there will be more resignations from the COAB soon as the likelihood of success is frittered away.