PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland City Council okayed the purchase of $161,536 in office furniture from a local business on Oct. 18, more than a year after the city’s Community Health Division inappropriately bought the furnishings without using a competitive bidding process — mandated by city law to ensure the city pays the lowest possible price.
The city states that officials overseeing Community Health, which includes Portland Street Response and the Community Health Assess and Treat program, purchased the furniture from Rose City Furnishings between April and August of 2022. However, as a result of staffing shortages, a lack of training and a rush to get the new programs up and running, the city says that newly hired managers within the Community Health Division purchased the furniture without following proper procurement policies. This misstep caused the $161,536 invoice to go unpaid more than a year after the furniture was delivered, unboxed and put to use.
“Due to administrative staff shortages, many tasks required to stand-up new offices were performed by program staff who had not been adequately trained in the city’s procurement policies or PF&R’s Office Furniture Procurement Policy and Process,” the city stated in its emergency ordinance to correct the issue.
Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Ryan Gillespie said that he learned about the issue when he took over as division chief of Community Health in March of 2023. Finding that Community Health was unable to pay for the office furniture, Gillespie said that he immediately paused all purchases within the agency and launched an investigation through the city’s Professional Standards Office.
“The investigation was completed and no one person was found at fault,” Gillespie told the Portland City Council Wednesday. “Instead, this was a symptom of rapid program expansion with inadequate oversight, miscommunication among managers and a lack of training, policies, resources and coordination.”
Gillespie said that he is actively implementing additional department policies and procedures to prevent any future purchasing problems. KOIN 6 made numerous attempts to contact Rose City Furnishings. However, efforts to reach the business were unsuccessful.
Rene Gonzalez, who oversees PF&R as the Commissioner of Public Safety, pulled the ordinance from the consent agenda to address the mishap publicly. All city council members, except for Commissioner Dan Ryan, who was absent for the discussion, unanimously approved the overdue payment.
“When we vote to approve this, a local firm will finally get paid,” Gonzalez said. “Long overdue.”