Friday, October 19, 2012
Port of Oakland Board reacts to misuse of public funds allegations, puts Executive Director Omar Benjamin on leave
The Oakland Board of Port Commissioners has taken action in response to an allegation reported this week that Maritime Director James Kwon misused public funds in the amount of $4500, entertaining shipping executives at a strip club during a conference in Houston in 2008.
The board put Executive Director Omar Benjamin on administrative leave with pay effective immediately, according to a statement released on Thursday. No reason for the leave of absence was disclosed.
"We continue to take this situation very seriously," said Board President Gilda Gonzales. "Holding those responsible accountable is our highest priority."
The commissioners appointed current Director of Aviation Deborah Ale Flint to serve as executive director.
At the direction of the board, the Port of Oakland hired Arnold and Porter, an international law firm, to help with the ongoing investigation into allegations of improper expenditures of public funds at the port.
Kwon, attending a conference in China, remains unavailable for comment. The reimbursement came to light years after it was submitted, port officials stated, because the receipts listed the charge to "D. Houston Inc.," the parent company of Treasures Strip Club.
The port has set up employee assistance program sessions, to respond to concerns of port employees. The port has encouraged the use of the Whistleblower Hotline to report any related issues.
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