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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of the Ombudsman

A division of the Portland City Auditor's Office

phone: 503-823-0144

email: ombudsman@portlandoregon.gov

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 310, Portland, OR 97204

Multiple bureaus

Year

Problem

Resolution

2018

A developer complained that he was not being allowed to record deferral contracts for System Development Charges with the Auditor’s Office. The Auditor’s Office claimed it could not process the contracts because it relied on verification data from Multnomah County that had been electronically inaccessible for many months while the County updated its system. 

The Ombudsman recommended the City develop a manual workaround so that development projects would not be unduly delayed. The eventual solution was complex and relied on the efforts of multiple bureaus, including Revenue, Development Services, and the City Attorney’s Office.  

2017

A vehicle owner reported her vehicle stolen to law enforcement. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office later recovered her stolen vehicle and had it towed to a private lot for safekeeping. The vehicle owner was charged for the tow and various other fees, including daily storage fees. The owner was unable to pay the fees or personally retrieve her vehicle, as she was unemployed and in another state because of a medical condition. As a result, the tow company took steps to take the title of her vehicle and sell it at auction, as it is permitted to do under a contract managed by the Bureau of Transportation.

The Ombudsman asked the Bureau of Transportation to intervene. The Bureau persuaded the tow company to cap the fees and delay the auction. The Ombudsman also asked the Sheriff to consider paying the fees given that the vehicle owner was a crime victim, the existence of financial and personal hardship, and because a sheriff's deputy ordered the tow. The Sheriff agreed and the vehicle owner arranged for her mechanic to tow the vehicle and store it until she could return to Oregon.

Although this case involved the Sheriff’s office, Portland Police routinely call for recovered stolen vehicles to be towed to a private lot. Car theft victims already face the hardship of losing their vehicle. Further burdening them with towing and storage fees is inherently unfair. This issue warrants further review. 

2017

 

Portland Police ordered a vehicle towed after determining it was a hazard. The vehicle owner disputed that the vehicle posed a hazard and appealed to the City’s Hearings Office. The Hearings Officer agreed with the owner and invalidated the tow. The owner attempted to recover her vehicle, but was told she needed additional paperwork from the Police Bureau. After obtaining the paperwork, the tow company said she was required to pay storage fees. 

The Ombudsman determined that the City did not give the owner a reasonable opportunity to recover her improperly towed vehicle before incurring storage fees. The Bureau of Transportation agreed to pay the fees and allow the owner to recover her vehicle at no additional expense. 

2016

A North Portland restaurant and music venue was cited for being out of compliance with fire and building codes. Although the owner said the venue had passed all fire inspections during the previous 15 years, the City imposed significant occupancy restrictions until the building could be updated. The owner took steps to bring the venue into compliance, but met with major delays because of difficulty getting timely information from the Bureau of Development Services and Portland Fire & Rescue. The venue lost more than $10,000 a month while the occupancy restrictions remained in effect and the owner expressed concern that further delays could put the venue out of business.  

The Ombudsman facilitated communication between the venue owner and the bureaus, leading to a conditional lifting of the occupancy limits while the owner completed the update of the building.