Monday, October 15, 2012
Port of Oakland maritime director uses $4,500 in public funds at strip club
The Port of Oakland Board of Port Commissioners met in an emergency closed session late Friday to discuss a case involving Maritime Director James Kwon and his $4,537 bill for a "drink and dinner reception" at a Houston strip club, where he entertained a group of shipping executives in 2008.
On Monday the commissioners announced actions to strengthen the port’s expense reimbursement policies and procedures designed to prevent improper expenditure of port funds.
Treasures, the “gentlemen's club” where Kwon entertained about a dozen industry executives during a 2008 conference in Houston, was not the name on the receipt submitted by Kwon. The receipt for the dinner party was from D. Houston Inc, the parent company of Treasures.
Reportedly, Treasures has a reputation for being the site of prostitution, drug dealing, weapons crimes and sexual assaults dating at least to 2008.
“The Board of Port Commissioners takes this matter very seriously and will take whatever action is required to improve our financial oversight to ensure expenditures like this don’t occur in the future,” President Gilda Gonzales said in a statement after their Friday meeting.
Kwon's strip-club business outing didn't come to light until recently, after a series of public record requests. The timing is bad for Oakland, which is in the midst of an ongoing labor conflict with maintenance and other port workers over the terms of a new contract.
Kwon, maritime operations director since 2007, was unavailable for comment. He's currently in China attending another port conference.
The Oakland port developed a policy related to port-issued purchasing cards in 2010, and the port’s Audit Division initiated an audit earlier this year. Policies with regards to port travel and entertainment and port purchasing cards are currently being updated with the audit recommendations and will soon be officially presented to the board.
"Over the last several years we have been taking steps to address Port expenditures, including developing policies," Gonzales said in her statement, adding that commissioners are conducting "further investigations to ensure expenditures like this don't occur again."
The Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Friday evening, October 12, 2012, regarding possible litigation related to public expenditure. This meeting will continue at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 15 and the board will further review the matter further at its next regular meeting on October 18, 2012.
For more of the SF Gate story: sfgate.com
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