"Mazziotti, party of two?"
The Oregonian frets a lot about its comics pages. Whenever it's thinking about replacing a comic strip, it goes into this extremely agitated state, in which the public editor and other bigwigs strut and cluck around trying not to upset the cranky old grandpa's whose favorite cartoons are about to be banished.
But some of the funniest material in the O isn't on the comics pages -- it's on the front page.
Take today's expose' on Portland Development Commission director Don Mazziotti's expense account. Man, that is some seriously funny stuff.
Here's a paper that isn't around when the state's U.S. senator is forcing his tongue down young women's throats in the elevators of the Capitol. The news organization that somehow misses the boat when the mayor of Portland is gettting it on with his staff member's 14-year-old daughter and reportedly fathering an illegitimate child or two with other women. The paper that still can't figure out that Frank Gable probably didn't kill Michael Francke. But even the O knows how to kick a mortally wounded animal. Thus, out it goes to read all the receipts detailing The Don's taxpayer-financed Perignon lifestyle, and run a story about it two days before he leaves office on the business end of Mayor Tom Potter's wingtip.
And gee, guess what, Mazziotti has blown lots of money in questionable ways, even admittedly misrepresenting the nature of one little $166 night on the town in Bend. Shocking -- shocking!
But truly amusing.
There's all kinds of dirt in the story, which is very well done for what it is. In addition to the mystery Valentine's Day dinner in Bend (two regular entrees plus a Wellington, all supposedly in the company of a "city lobbyist" -- except that the lobbyist says she wasn't there), The Don's been spending all sorts of taxpayer dough wining and dining his own staff, including bashes at Wilf's. He and Marge Kafoury, the Portland city lobbyist, have been out for dinner seven times on the PDC's dime, including a $126 blowout at Bluehour down in the Pearl in February. Then there are 10 meals listed with one Gianna Lupo, a local realtor of the female persuasion who's running something called Little Italy Development LLC. Wyman Winston, Mazziotti's deputy, whose apparently limited skills have required many tens of thousands of dollars of management coaching, chowed down with The Don 10 times, with the average meal tab running $107.
O.k., so what? The craziest thing is the fact that, on top of all the free food and booze Mazziotti's gotten reimbursed for, he's also, for the last two years, collected from the PDC an additional $1200-a-month "expense stipend," for which he doesn't have to submit, and hasn't, any substantiation at all. According to the O, this was approved (partly retroactively, of course) by a simple memo from Matt Hennessee, the PDC's chair. No mention is made of any approval by the PDC board. That's an extra 55 bucks per workday, supposedly "to conduct the business of the PDC." All with a stroke of Hennessee's pen.
Regular readers, you know whom this reminds me of. Of course, the fattest cat of them all -- the guy who got both The Don and Reverend Matt their PDC positions. Their mentor, Neil of Oz. The same guy who had no problems billing taxpayers for a personal limo ride or two for himself when he was a "consultant" to the shadiest of "quasi-governmental" operations down at SAIF. It's obviously the same m.o. You wonder what else was going on besides the heavy meals and lots of cocktails at places like Bluehour.
At the end of the article, Mazziotti admits that he didn't see his $1,200-a-month "stipend" as an expense allowance at all, but just another $15,000-a-year salary increase. If that's so, can he keep it? I wonder if anyone in city government will have the guts to try to make him pay it back.
Even better, I hope that the bright young people at the Internal Revenue Service and the Oregon Department of Revenue fought through their tears of laughter and read the story all the way through. If I were they, I know whose tax returns I'd be looking at tomorrow.