Workers Demand Port Commissioners Take Responsibility for Corrupt Use of Public Funds

Port of Oakland officials claim they operate the nation’s 5th largest commercial port in an ongoing financial crisis. But while they demand concessions from employees, investigations this week reveal that top-paid executives have been misusing public funds since 2008, including $4,500 at a strip club; $476 for a haircut, $324 for a pair of golf shoes and thousands more in extravagant entertainment outings.

Oakland, CA — Port workers today demanded that Oakland Port Commissioners curtail outrageous misuse of public funds and to release an internal financial audit from July 2011 and work with employees, who have questioned the Port’s financial practices during current contract talks.

Workers say administrators lied to the public about proper accountability and they lied to employees about their “dire financial straits.” Research shows the Port ended the 2012 fiscal year with a $37 million surplus.

“In 2008, administrators wanted to sacrifice vital public services in the form of furlough days while they were living it up at strip clubs, misusing public money and engaging in corrupt behavior,” said Jean Parks, a maritime plumber at the harbor.

Locked in a protracted contract dispute for more than 15 months, Port workers represented by SEIU Local 1021 addressed port commissioners, and then gathered outside the building, calling for accountability to the public and their employees and end misuse of public funds. Workers are asking to have honest negotiations.

This week, Marine Director James Kwon came under fire for a $4,500 strip club bill he charged to the Port of Oakland credit card and countless other transactions — including first-class airline tickets, $1,000 in “dessert wine” and expensive golf trips — that are ethically questionable. These are public funds that workers feel should be used for the long-term stability and good jobs at the port.

“Now they say they have no money, and come ask for what amounts to a 15 percent loss of wages and continue to mistreat and demean their employees,” Parks said. “It makes me wonder: What are they using their credit cards for now?

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