Portland City Bosses Award $12m Clean Energy Contract Aimed at Boosting Racial Equity to Bankrupt Fraudster
Melissa Koenig, Daily Mail, December 14, 2021
Woke Portland city officials have awarded a nearly $12 million clean energy contract to a nonprofit run by a woman convicted of defrauding energy companies.
According to an investigation by the Oregonian, Linda Woodley, 71, has served time in prison over the past 25 years for defrauding energy companies, and racked up millions of dollars in liens for unpaid federal and state taxes – including a six-figure penalty filed just earlier this year.
She has also faced accusations of failing to disclose financial records, and has been investigated by the IRS.
But Portland city officials awarded her nonprofit organization, Diversifying Energy, a contract worth nearly $12 million earlier this month to purchase, deliver and install portable eat pumps and cooling units inside 15,000 homes and apartments of low-income individuals.
The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund tapped her for the program, and the City Council unanimously approved the grant – despite concerns from some staff members who were concerned about the nonprofit’s high personnel costs and proposed delivery timeline.
They recommended the city instead award the grant to the only other bidder, with 85 percent white employees, rather than to Woodley, who is black.
She is now also facing claims that she lied about her prior experience to get the grant money.
Woodley has now said her longstanding legal and financial woes are connected to a criminal conviction in the 1990s for committing tax and bankruptcy fraud. Her history of failing to pay federal taxes also dates back to then.
Still, she acknowledged that the IRS placed a $77,000 lien on property she owns in 2018 for failure to pay federal income taxes in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
But she denies she fabricated or exaggerated her proposal by claiming she ‘managed’ a $30 million energy upgrade program in Los Angeles, even though the program’s overseers say they never heard of her.
‘People make mistakes and it has been over 25 years since the 1991 incident,’ she said. ‘I had hoped this part of my life was behind me.
‘I have worked very hard over the past years to be a good person and I think that I am highly regarded in many circles in the industry.’
She has, in fact, made a name for herself in the energy efficiency industry since she moved to Portland in 2014, and created Prisma Point, a consulting firm specializing in designing energy efficiency programs for underserved markets and promoting diversity management in the energy industry.
That group partnered with Energy Trust of Oregon and Portland General Electric, with Woodley receiving several accolades for her work.
She then formed Diversifying Energy just over a year ago to ‘facilitate equitable access to clean, sustainable energy and improve air quality to vulnerable populations, including low-income communities and people of color,’ according to its website.
But in Diversifying Energy’s bid proposal, the Oregonian reports, she falsely claimed she had more than 20 years experience as a champion for energy efficiency.
Public records obtained by the Oregonian show that in the 1980s she was selling fossil fuels to industrial and commercial customers on the West Coast.
She later founded and purchased several natural gas marketing firms in San Francisco, including Pacific Western Energy and Allegis Energy Resources – but declared them both bankrupt in 1992, leaving behind debts of about $3.5 million.
A multiyear investigation by the FBI and IRS ensued, according to the Oregonian, and concluded she diverted over $800,000 from the companies for her own use, lied during corporate bankruptcy proceedings and failed to pay her 1991 taxes.
She was convicted of bankruptcy and tax fraud in 1997, and was sentenced to three years and a month in federal prison.
She was also ordered to pay nearly $1 million to the companies she defrauded.
After her release, the Oregonian reports, Woodley moved to Washington, where she confessed in 2001 to more than a dozen probation violations – including faking financial statements, securing prohibited loans to purchase a home in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood and lying to probation officers.
As a result, Woodley wound up back in jail for six months.
Five years later, in 2006, the Oregonian says, she tried to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – just months after the US Attorney’s Office in Washington filed a notice seeking $928,000 from her in connection to her 1997 conviction.
At the same time, she faced foreclosure on the property she owned.
But federal judges denied the bankruptcy claims after Woodley failed to provide the necessary financial documents, like federal income tax returns and monthly statements.
Then, just one year later, the IRS placed a $1.3 million lien against her for the unpaid restitution to the companies she originally defrauded.
And shortly after she relocated to Portland, the IRS refiled its lien against her in Washington state and increased the penalty to $2.2 million. It eventually released her from the lien in 2016, when it expired.
Since then, the Oregonian reports, Woodley has registered at least eight other businesses or nonprofits on the West Coast, including Diversifying Energy, but most appear to be dormant.
Then, just this past May, the state of California filed an $810,000 lien against her in Sacramento County for a failure to pay taxes she owned tied to her 1997 tax fraud conviction.
Portland city officials have said they were unaware of Woodley’s history, and said they would delay the execution of the $11.5 million agreement with Diversifying Energy.
They also said they would look to take steps to further vet who they award grants to.
‘This is obviously shocking and distressing and sad news for us and the program,’ Eden Dabbs, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which oversees the fund, told the Oregonian.
‘We are going to have to take responsibility for the decision.
‘We’ll absolutely be looking at this in terms of process and use it as a painful lesson not to let this ever happen again.’