- Associated Press - Friday, December 30, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Portland Transportation Bureau’s new construction project manager has a felony conviction for lying on tax documents in connection to a federal corruption investigation.

According to court documents, Millicent Williams directed $110,000 from a nonprofit she ran toward an inaugural ball at the request of a Washington, D.C., councilman, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (https://is.gd/AWwNNA). She pleaded guilty in 2013 and served 15 months of probation. She was not accused of personally benefiting from the misdirection of funds.

Williams said she was open with Portland officials about the conviction during the hiring process. In her new position as the bureau’s capital projects division manager, she will oversee a staff of 12 and manage capital improvement projects that total $60 million to $80 million.

City officials said Williams’ career in the nonprofit and public sectors outweighed her criminal conviction.

“She was chosen after a highly competitive and rigorous selection process,” said Transportation Bureau Director Leah Treat. “She has been very forthcoming about her court case, and I have been impressed with her honesty and her willingness to take responsibility for her actions. I believe she has learned from her mistakes.”

Williams was one of several people implicated in the federal investigation of Harry Thomas Jr., who was accused of embezzling more than $350,000 in public funds. He was convicted in 2012 and served three years in prison.

At the time, Williams ran a nonprofit that distributed public funds to youth programs. In 2009, Thomas asked Williams for a grant to pay for a black-tie inaugural ball that had already occurred. Williams said the event had been described to her as a venue for at-risk youth to celebrate the election of President Barack Obama, which she believed would be an appropriate use of funds.

“I didn’t know that the other organization did not do what was supposed to have been done,” Williams said. “Had I been more judicious in my approach, as we had been for other grants, it probably would have been detected. But I was not.”

The hire comes a year after Portland passed a policy prohibiting employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal history until after making a conditional job offer. Williams disclosed her felony conviction to a city human resources manager before applying, but interviewers weren’t told of it until she was named one of four finalists.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com

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