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City Auditor finds Urban Alchemy violated lobbying regulations in 2022

Press Release
Published


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 1, 2024

CONTACT: Deborah Scroggin, Elections and Special Projects Manager


Today, Auditor Simone Rede issued a warning letter that found Urban Alchemy violated the City’s lobbying regulations in 2022.

The letter recommends Urban Alchemy review the City’s requirements and participate in training provided by the Auditor’s Office. 

The Elections Office, part of the Auditor’s Office that oversees the City’s lobbying regulations, received a complaint in June 2023, alleging that Urban Alchemy had engaged in lobbying City officials and failed to register and report the lobbying activity. Urban Alchemy is a California-based organization that administers temporary alternative shelters and houseless service programs. Beginning in April 2022, the Mayor’s Office engaged Urban Alchemy to learn about its temporary alternative shelter services. City officials were interested in learning about Urban Alchemy’s alternative shelter sites, operational details, and in what context Urban Alchemy could operate in Portland.

The Elections Office investigated Urban Alchemy’s communications with City officials between April and December 2022 — when the City issued its request for proposals for an alternative shelter contract. The investigation showed that for nearly nine months, Urban Alchemy communicated with the City and devoted substantial resources to convince City officials that it was best positioned to be awarded the alternative shelter contract. In January 2023, the City awarded the contract to Urban Alchemy.

Under City Code (Chapter 2.12 Regulation of Lobbying Entities), lobbying means attempting to influence the official action of City officials. Such activity is required to be reported once a lobbying entity has reached the specified thresholds — 8 hours or $1,000 spent in any given quarter lobbying. Lobbying entities are required to register within three working days.

The Elections Office’s investigation showed that in the 4th quarter of 2022, Urban Alchemy spent over $1,000 lobbying City officials, exceeding the threshold for registering and reporting. During this time, Urban Alchemy employees traveled to Portland and engaged in several meetings with City officials with the primary purpose of convincing the City it was the best choice to be the alternative shelter contractor. It did not register or report the lobbying expenses.

“Portland’s lobbying regulations serve to build trust in the City’s decisions by shining a light on outside efforts to influence City officials. The complainant correctly pointed out that more transparency was needed from Urban Alchemy in this case,” said City Auditor Simone Rede.

The Auditor’s Office encourages any entity who expects to reach the City’s lobbying thresholds to register at the beginning of each calendar year.

Registration and reporting is free and can be done online. 

The warning letter to Urban Alchemy is posted on the Elections Office's webpage per standard practice, as is Urban Alchemy’s response to initial findings.

View the warning letter on our website: Urban Alchemy Warning Letter

About the investigation 

When complaints are received by the Elections Office, which is housed in the Auditor’s Office, the information provided is reviewed and the Elections Office determines if a formal investigation is warranted. In this case, it was found that an investigation was necessary. 

For more information about the City’s lobbying regulations, including what does and does not qualify as lobbying activity and how to report such activity, see City Code 2.12.020 and the adopted lobbying rules

City Elections can be reached at Elections@PortlandOregon.gov or 503-823-4022.

Contact

Simone Rede

1221 SW Fourth Avenue
Room 130
Portland, OR 97204

Hours: Please email elections@portlandoregon.gov to schedule an in-person appointment. Walk-in office hours: Tuesday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact

Deborah Scroggin

Elections and Special Projects Manager

Location