Two former PBOT staffers take jobs with Biden Administration

Posted by on January 21st, 2021 at 4:51 pm

Left: Maurice Henderson in 2016 (Photo by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland) Right: Irene Marion in 2019 (Photo by Oregon Walks)

Two former Portland Bureau of Transportation employees have been sworn in by U.S. President Joe Biden for positions within his administration.

Former PBOT Equity and Inclusion Manager Irene Marion will be Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Maurice Henderson, a former assistant director at PBOT, will be Senior Advisor to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Marion and Henderson are among dozens of appointees announced Thursday. “With the safety of the traveling public and America’s workers at the center of its mission, the team will work toward economic recovery, racial equity, and combating climate change,” said the DOT in a statement.

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Prior to his work at PBOT, Henderson served as chief of staff for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and had short stint as TriMet’s chief operating officer. Since leaving PBOT in 2019, Henderson was working in government affairs for micromobility company Bird. He was appointed to a position on the Oregon Transportation Commission late last year. He’ll likely need to step down from the OTC to take his new job in DC. According to ODOT, Henderson has not yet submitted a resignation.

Marion had worked at PBOT for nearly five years before accepting her position. She was key in the agency’s effort to become an antiracist organization. “We’re stoked for her, but sad for us,” PBOT Director Chris Warner shared in a meeting today. Marion is no stranger to Washington D.C. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer for the Congressional Black Caucus during the Obama administration.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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David HampstenOregon MamacitabuildwithjoeZach KPhil M Recent comment authors
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David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

You know Portland is a major US city when so many aspiring bureaucrats use the city as a major stepping stone as they move up in their career. I fully expect Leah Treat and Art Pearce to next be hired and sworn in for top USDOT jobs.

Maddy
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Maddy

I was just thinking that, and I’m sick of Portland just being a means to pad political resumes. Lasting and genuine solutions never come from this model.

Phil M
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Phil M

And none of these “hot shots” ever seem to get much done around here.

Zach K
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Zach K

To be fair, a bureaucrat essentially doesn’t get anything done *by definition.*

buildwithjoe
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buildwithjoe

Maurice Henderson closed the balcony of city hall for 2 years. That is a direct violation of civil and constitutional rights. They removed seating in the lower level and then made me and my daughter and other people sit for 5 hours in super cold “overflow rooms”. They did this 5 years to turn away people from city hall dialogs.

He is a Ted Wheeler puppet. Maurice is a perfect fit for the corporate Biden regime. Much better than the trump white nationalists though. Yay progress.

Maurice Henderson would not respond to emails or calls. He treats people with contempt. He is deceptive and changed the story from security of throwing things (a lie) to the balconly railing being not safe and people could fall ( also a lie) – He could have closed just the front row of balcony seats if that was true.

Biden will keep funding the “defense” department and double down on giving states matching billions for freeway expansion. We will not get any form of single payer or end to insurance company greed. We will not get student loan forgiveness. We will get our tax money in bail outs for landlords and banks in this housing crisis. They own equity, they can just put things on pause and forgive rent.

buildwithjoe
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buildwithjoe

The Balcony was closed 2 years. I can’t edit the above statement.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Our national politics has shifted to the right so much that the Biden of today would have been regarded as a “moderate Republican” back in the 80s.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita
David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

When I worked for PBOT 2000-2006 as a GIS tech, the other techs and I were specifically told to avoid the maintenance facility on Russel Street at all costs, and only go there with our supervisor. I had met other techs who were working there and they hated it, as hazing and harassment were daily occurrences.

Treat “inherited” a situation that neither she nor any of her predecessors could control, ever. A PBOT director is not the boss of PBOT, they are the head cheerleader and main PR person. PBOT is still at least 4 bureaus each with their own long history, culture, and eccentric civil services: Maintenance; Signals & Street Lights; Parking Operations & Patrol; and Civil Design & Engineering; plus a series of smaller agencies. In 1988 PBOT was created as amalgamation of all these, but they have yet to be integrated.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

So she knew about the problems when she took office and did zip while person on person crimes were being committed by PBOT employees. And no one called the police or otherwise lifted a finger. Including your boss and the other techs. Not cool. I guess the rot at PBOT under Hales was worse than we knew.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

At the time, the Water Bureau had an even lower reputation. BES (sewers) was considered an excellent workplace, while Parks was better than average. Planning, BDS, and PDC had so-so reputations.

As a community member I was involved with her hiring interview panel, and to honest, I very much doubt she was informed of any serious issues in maintenance personnel before her hiring; on the other hand, I don’t know if she inquired or not.

The rot, as you rightly put it, goes very deep indeed. One of my last bosses, a terrifically nice guy, was later convicted of taking bribes – I was quite bummed about it, but that was long after I was laid off from the City.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

Once she did learn about the literal torture of PBOT employees, who were bound with duct tape and used for target practice, she did zip. Quite the cheerleader. She is 100% unfit to supervise employees and unfit as a public servant. While the Portland active transportation community has a history of tolerating intolerable behaviors (rest in peace Hart Noecker’s reputation) I seriously doubt that Leah Treat can pass a Biden admin background check. Her current employer must not know how to use the google.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Are you saying that there may be an opening for her as the central administrator for the water-boarding facility at US naval base rendition prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba?

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

Nothing is funny about the actual torture of PBOT employees. They were working stiffs desparate for a steady paycheck. No one who knew had the courage to make an anonymous complaint. Leah Treat and, from your account, a bunch of other supposedly high minded smart people were complicit.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

What parts of the Willamette Week story do you find funny?

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

I find it sad that you, and WW, find it too easy to blame a PBOT director for not fixing an agency that has been broken for decades, rather than blame any of her predecessors, the staff she can’t fire because of civil service protections and/or labor union rules, the mayor who hired her nor the later mayor who retained her, nor the 664,000 residents who elected the mayors and who seem inclined to allow their city to be run the way it is. Blaming people is just too irresistible, isn’t it? Might it be possible it can’t be fixed? That there is no cure? That unnecessary pain, suffering, and periodic torture by bullies is a symptom of a bloated bureaucratic power structure called the City of Portland? And that maybe this history of unnecessary pain, suffering, and periodic torture by bullies reflects a Portland culture that makes you, and likely everyone else, rather uncomfortable, to put it mildly?

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

Listen, the evil was within PBOT and no one cared enough to call the cops. And, note how whistleblowers were fired, and they were union. Do not tell us Leah Treat and her cohorts get to talk all about diversity and inclusiveness and turn a blind eye to the most outrageous workplace felonies. Leah Treat and the rest of the PBOT brass simply did not care enough and were unwilling to rise to the occasion. Therefore she remains unfit for public office. She should think twice before pursuing a job in the Biden Adiministration.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

One last note, if this statement is true: “That unnecessary pain, suffering, and periodic torture by bullies is a symptom of a bloated bureaucratic power structure called the City of Portland? ” then why should tenure at PBOT be a job qualification? “Worked in a supervisory capacity in a bloated power structure where I was powerless to stop the torture of new hires in the maintenance department” is prob. not a bullet point on Ms. Treat’s resume. Sounds like PBOT is something one would leave off one’s resume.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

“PBOT” on the resume actually gets you more likely to be hired nationally, it’s a huge plus, even if they might get it mixed up with Pennsylvania or Portland Maine. Sorry to let you know. Generally the only people who will pick up on any negs about an agency are the local press and local residents like yourself – no one else cares, and after the last administration, even the national press no longer care.

Do you seriously think the bulling at PBOT is unique to PBOT within the City of Portland? That other bureaus don’t have similar cases? And that such cases are unique to Portland? Nearly every city I’ve ever lived in I hear rumors about similar cases, whereas we all see the cases of city police brutality in nearly every US city (and many abroad).

When she was hired at PBOT, we fully expected her to be hired for the Hilary Clinton administration in 2017, as she previously worked for Chicago and the city of DC. Obviously that didn’t happen.

I also have no doubt that hazing is still going on at the PBOT maintenance facilities. Why wouldn’t it?

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

I see a logical inconsistency between the defense of Ms. Treat (PBOT and PDX are tolerant of workplace torture) and the simultaneous assertion that leadership of PBOT looks good on a resume. I am not in the field and do not know whether it looks good, so I defer to you on that. I appreciate your civility. I remain disturbed that any top brass complicit in the disaster at PBOT be rewarded with federal jobs. Over and out.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I want to be clear:

1. What WW reported I believe happened.

2. I agree what happened was “evil” and both the perpetrator and those who long failed to report witnessing similar previous incidents should have been reported and punished. And some were punished, but only within the limits of the civil service and the various unions involved – no criminal courts were involved.

3. Leah Treat, as with both her successors and her predecessors, does not have the superhuman powers you and other ascribe to her or to her position. The only staff she can hire or fire are unclassified employees, a very small number at both the top of the organization (“her people”) and at the bottom (seasonal interns like me.) The other 95% she has no control over, other than she must sign off on appointments, promotions or dismissals that other senior civil servants have real control over. The director of Maintenance for example Treat didn’t hire nor could she fire that director. Even the mayor doesn’t have that power. The Maintenance director or group manager (a very competent woman by the way) essentially has the job for life or until she retires or quits, or is caught red-handed doing something obviously criminal like murder or taking bribes, which isn’t likely given her job and nature.

4. I completely fail to see why any appointed person, bureaucrat, elected official, or community resident should be blamed for any failure by protected employees in any bureaucracy, unless that person was directly involved in the incident or had full record of it (such as video) AND had the power to do something about it. In this particular case, it was a failure at the systematic level that needs to be laid at the feet of all Oregonians to change state laws and reduce the power of unions to protect criminal and criminally-negligent employees.

5 And finally, I’m glad we’ve had this civil discourse at the expense of JM’s blog.