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Monday, April 1, 2013

New public spending questions rock Port of Oakland as it sets new policies

KTVU claims it has uncovered more questionable spending of public funds at the Port of Oakland, at a time when the port is setting new spending policies to improve its public image.

Reportedly, the top public relations official for the Port of Oakland has spent thousands of dollars on phony websites apparently meant to confuse the port's perceived political enemies, as well as on food and drink at luxury Hong Kong bars and restaurants, according to documents obtained by KTVU. Port officials have not yet offered a response.

Last week the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners instituted spending policy limits for its employees in an effort to increase public confidence since last fall's spending scandals, which included thousands of dollars reimbursed to port executives for an extravagant strip club outing, a story broken by KTVU.

At that time, KTVU requested expense reports for Port of Oakland public relations head Isaac Kos-Read, who receives a salary of $180,000. It took five months for the records, which have raised many questions, to be released.

KTVU found that the documents reveal the Port of Oakland bought a Web domain name that appeared to rightfully belong to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The port also spent public money buying a Web domain that purports to be from the Occupy Oakland movement, according to the documents.

"When people buy their opposition's URLs, it's not to stop them from buying them, or using them," said Peter Leyden, founder and CEO of Reinventors, a company designed to be an intersection of emerging Internet technologies and good government. "It's in fact, essentially to set a front up that's essentially what they call an 'Astroturf.'" 

"Astroturfing" is a term for covering up the truth online with propaganda.

Kos-Read declined an interview with KTVU.

This new information has popped up at a time when the Port of Oakland has announced new employee spending limits after 13 years with no credit card policy in place. Mandatory ethics training for port staff has been floated, and new per diem and airline policies have also been put in place.

For more of the KTVU stories: ktvu.com1 and ktvu.com2

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