Local FBI officials Tuesday unveiled two new ways for members of the public to report their suspicion of government fraud.
"FBI agents in Oregon are targeting corrupt public officials—and they need your help to do it," the agency's website says.
Call in tips to 503-460-8585 or e-mail [email protected].
The new tipline comes seven months after Ellis McCoy, the former City of Portland parking manager, pled guilty to bribery, conspiracy to take bribes, and falsifying income tax returns.
By many accounts, McCoy's criminal activities earned many complaints to city officials over the years, but he wasn't stopped until the FBI and the IRS started investigating a corruption case involving a Florida businessman named George Levey and his company, Cale Parking Systems USA, which marketed Smart Meter machines made in Sweden.
One local Portland businessman in particular, Bruce Feathers, tried in vain for years to persuade the city to investigate McCoy; Feathers even filed a tort claim against the city after McCoy's arrest.
Feathers also repeatedly took his concerns about bribery and kickbacks to city officials but no one acted; even the civil rights organization the Albina Ministerial Alliance weighed in on the case.
The City of Portland set up its own 'Anonymous Tipline' in 2010, after the initial fallout from the McCoy scandal. To submit a tip, either: Go to www.portlandfraudalert.com and fill out a form; go to www.ethicspoint.com, follow the "File New Report" link and enter "City of Portland" and fill out a form; or call EthicsPoint at 1-866-342-4148, where a toll-free line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Reports will be taken by a live intake specialist," the city's website says. "Calls are not recorded and caller ID is disabled."
Feathers, meanwhile, watched the McCoy scam wreck his parking meter enterprise. Today, Feathers says he is almost out of business.
"I'm still fighting the Portland Development Commission, which continues to pursue me to pay a loan that was provided for the very parking contract that a parking official was convicted for corruption over," Feathers says.
He thinks the FBI's tipline is an excellent idea.
"Given the consequences of the city's corrupt official that has destroyed my business, and how difficult it was to gain any information or bring it to light to our local city government -- the fact that people like me and others can go beyond the local government in the public arena and reach out to someone who's independent of the process -- I think is an excellent idea and should prove to be very useful both for individuals and small businesses like mine," Feathers says.
For people with similar concerns about government employees going forward, FBI spokeswoman BethAnn Steele said Tuesday that the public corruption hotline is not anonymous.
"We do try to get people to leave their information," she said. "When they contact us they can ask what the options are in terms of shielding their identity."
Specifically the bureau is looking for tips on: bribery, extortion, embezzlement, racketeering, kickbacks, and money laundering, as well as wire, mail, bank, and tax fraud.
"It is a violation of federal law for any federal or state government official to ask for or receive anything of value for or because of any official act," the bureau's statement on the tipline says.
"Under federal law, the person who offers or pays a bribe is also guilty."
Interestingly, however, the Florida businessman who was accused of paying bribes to McCoy, George Levey, remains a free man.
Meanwhile, Cale Parking Systems USA has been sold to Cale Parking Systems America and continues to sell meter machines and services to other municipalities around the country.
The State Attorney's office confirmed Tuesday that McCoy has not yet been sentenced and remains out of custody.
If you call or write the FBI with your tips on suspected public corruption, expect to leave your name, telephone number, and a brief description of your "concerns and observations."
"Agents will review voicemail and email daily, and they will contact individuals for follow-up as needed," the bureau says.
For more information go to www.fbi.gov/portland.