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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Key Player in Portland's Legal Battles with Police Union Moves to School District

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Stephanie Harper, a deputy city attorney who helped guide Portland officials through several contentious labor battles with the Portland Police Association—including ongoing Department of Justice reforms, contract negotiations, and the fallout from the 2010 Aaron Campbell shooting—has left the city for a job with Portland Public Schools, the Mercury has learned.

The city attorney's office wouldn't say much about Harper's departure, other than to note that it came a couple of weeks ago and that they expect to hire someone to take over her police bureau portfolio in the next month. Attorneys David Woboril and Ellen Osoinach, both of whom have spent years advising the police bureau on training and policy issues, are helping out in the meantime, the office also says.

"We've got it covered," a staffer told me.

The timing, however, is less than ideal. Mediation over the DOJ reforms, involving the city, the union, and the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform is in the wings. Harper had been appearing in federal court on the city's behalf.

Complications involving the DOJ settlement and changes to the bureau's use of force and Taser policies also have sparked a legal fight between the city and PPA over contract talks expected to start up this spring. Harper in February wrote the legal memo that persuaded city commissioners to haul the PPA in front of a state board to iron out the issue. She'd been point of contact in dealing with PPA counsel Anil Karia on DOJ issues.

Harper also helped the city argue some losing arbitration cases against the PPA, including the attempted dismissal of the cop who shot and killed Aaron Campbell, Ron Frashour, and now-overturned suspensions for two cops, Kyle Nice and Christopher Humphreys, rapped for failing to insist on medical care for James Chasse Jr.

Observers in city hall have long muttered about the city's track record against the PPA. But sources tell the Mercury that Harper's departure wasn't forced. She joins two other city labor officials in working for PPS: former human resources director Yvonne Deckard, and former police bureau human resources manager Sean Murray.


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