- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A federal judge has sentenced a former Portland city official to two years in prison for taking bribes to help a Florida company land a parking meter contract.

The sentence handed down Wednesday is likely to mean that Ellis McCoy, 64, will serve time at the medium-security federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, or perhaps its minimum-security prison camp.

His attorney argued for probation, saying McCoy was humiliated, has turned his life around and cooperated early on with investigators. McCoy has a kidney disease that will be difficult for prison officials to handle, his attorney said.

Prosecutors recommended a sentence of two years, six months.

Judge Marco Hernandez said the damage to public confidence in government integrity was too great to put McCoy on probation, and he was having none of the defense’s argument that McCoy let his ego and ambition get out of hand.

“From where I sit, it sounds more like greed,” Hernandez said.

The scheme came to light in 2011, when FBI agents raided McCoy’s city and home offices.

Investigators said that over 10 years, McCoy took $200,000 in cash and travel favors from two executives: one still unnamed, and George Levey, who has pleaded guilty and faces sentencing in August.

A prosecution document refers to an unnamed person who participated in the bribery scheme as “Executive #2.”

It describes the person as a senior executive doing business with the city on its parking meter project, but not part of Levey’s Florida company.

Levey’s company dates to 2003 in Clearwater, Florida, the U.S. affiliate of a Swedish company, Cale, the government document states.

City officials and investigators say Portland got a good deal on a meter system that saves money, something the defense made a point of Wednesday.

“The city of Portland did not purchase a lemon,” defense attorney Thomas Price said.

McCoy apologized and said he rationalized the bribery by saying he’d pressed for a good project. If not for the bribery part, he said, the meter project would have been hailed as a success.

The city is still doing business with Cale.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Uram said Portland got a good price because Levey viewed the contract as a loss leader that would allow him to point to Portland as an early adopter of “smart meters.”

The devices, one to a block, replace meters for individual parking spots.

They take credit cards - coins, too - and spit out stickers that drivers put on the windows of their parked vehicles to show when the parking privilege expires. The system was installed to reduce the labor costs of collection and maintenance.

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