Councilor says complaints by Yoshida developer are politically motivated

A prominent Gresham developer has filed a complaint with the Oregon Ethics Commission against Troutdale City Councilor Glenn White.

The complaint alleges White committed two ethics violations — accepting gifts and failing to disclose a conflict of interest.

The complaint was filed by Brian Lessler of Gresham, president of Persimmon Construction Services. Lessler's company is handling remodeling of the Troutdale Marketplace for businessman Junki Yoshida and had partnered with Yoshida on a controversial proposal to build a new City Hall.

White told The Outlook on Thursday the allegations were politically motivated.

Lessler said he heard rumors that White received discounted services at his daughter's wedding and that White voted to spend city money defending his property from a new floodplain map.

“I did a lot of research and I thought it's time to ask for some help to make sure nothing illegal is going on," Lessler said. "There's a process for investigating this kind of thing. I'm mainly interested in finding out the truth.”

The ethics commission staff is reviewing the complaint before recommending further investigation.

The first issue stems from last September when White's daughter was married at Harvest Christian Church in Troutdale. Lessler alleges the wedding was catered by Troutdale residents who provided services for free or at a substantially reduced rate. Public officials are advised to avoid accepting gifts in excess of $50, and may need to disclose the gift publicly if the value exceeds $50. The claim also says several Troutdale employees who were members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union volunteered at the wedding, while the city was actively negotiating a contract with the union. White later voted in favor of raises in the union contract.

The second allegation is more extensive. Lessler alleges three instances in which White failed to disclose his conflict of interest concerning the floodplain, as well as participating in discussions on the issue and voting in favor of hiring a consultant to review floodplain map revisions.

White and his wife, Diane Castillo-White, own three lots along the Sandy River. As part of the proposed new floodplain boundaries by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the floodplain would encroach further onto White's property, reducing the size of their usable land.

Lessler alleges that White failed to disclose a conflict during three meetings. During a Sept. 8, 2015 meeting, the council discussed hiring a consultant for the floodplain map. City Attorney Ed Trompke discussed the issue, including that White had been a part of an ongoing discussion concerning the floodplain process stemming back to June 2014.

The consultant issue was again discussed Oct. 13, requiring an amendment to the city's budget for the $15,000 contract. That decision was pushed to the Oct. 27 meeting, where White voted again, without disclosure of this conflict of interest, Lessler alleges.

White disputed the allegations.

"I am only one of many volunteers and citizens who work hard to make this small community so special," he said in a written statement. "Two false reports have been directed at my family within a week. What Mr. Yoshida's former business associate (Mr. Lessler) hopes to gain by making false accusations is his question to answer. But I am saddened to say that I feel it is politically motivated. Elected officials often get attacked for doing their job, but it is our responsibility to spend the peoples' money wisely and with proper justification. I have always been known for strong ethics and morals and I stand by the decisions I make."

The state's review process takes 30 days, after which it will be forwarded to the Ethics Commission at its next meeting. That could be Feb. 26 or April 8, depending on when the preliminary review is complete.

Lessler said he filed the complaint simply because he wants to know the truth.

“They will either dispel or confirm it,” he said. “However it turns out is fine.”

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