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Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin announced his immediate retirement Monday following an investigation into allegations of improper expenditures. The Oakland Board of Port Commissioners placed Benjamin on paid administrative leave on Oct. 18. The Port of Oakland’s Maritime Director James Kwon was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 21.
Recent public records requests revealed that $4,500 in public money was spent by port executives at a Houston, Texas, strip club in 2008, according to the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners. The expenditure was not immediately noticed because the name of the venue is not evident on the receipt, according to the port. The receipt listed the business as “D. Houston, Inc.,” which port officials later learned was the corporate name for Treasures Strip Club.
The Port of Oakland has hired the law firm Arnold & Porter to serve as independent outside council in the on-going investigation of improper expenditures. Former Director of Aviation Deborah Ale Flint was assigned to perform the duties of the executive director while Benjamin was on leave and will continue as the Acting Executive Director in Benjamin’s absence, according to the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners.
In a statement issued by Flint on Nov. 1 regarding the scandal, she said, “To the citizens of Oakland who are disappointed and outraged by this situation, I have a very simple message: I am too.” The Port of Oakland will discuss additional developments regarding policies and oversight at its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Nov. 15.
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