Sen. Betsy Johnson remains silent on federal investigation; details of inquiry unknown
Warren resident and Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson remains mum following stories in the Oregonian and Willamette Week newspapers reporting she is the target of a Federal Bureau of Investigations probe.
The Oregonian article cited former Port of St. Helens Executive Director Peter Williamson as a source who confirmed the federal inquiry. Details of the FBI investigation are unknown.
Johnson was unavailable for comment regarding the investigation. Stephen Houze, a well-known criminal attorney, is representing the senator.
A Jan. 8 statement released by Houze's downtown Portland office says that 'because it is a pending investigation, neither she nor I intend to comment on the merits of the matter.'
The statement continues by saying that 'Betsy Johnson has done nothing wrong,' and that 'her candid and straightforward style has from time to time ruffled the feathers of certain entrenched special interests and 'good old boys.''
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, said it is FBI policy not to comment on open investigations.
'We're not allowed to say whether or not we have a particular case open,' Steele said on Friday, Jan. 11.
No charges have been brought against Johnson, Steele said.
Steele said the federal agency typically launches an investigation based on an indication that federal law may have been breached.
'We would have to have some indication that there was a violation of federal law,' Steele said. 'We wouldn't just open an investigation, generally speaking, unless we had some information from some source that there was a possible violation of federal law.'
Mention of the FBI's possible interest in Johnson first appeared on the St. Helens-based Web blog www.sthelensupdate.com, in a Dec. 10 posting from blogger 'Jay Wonder.' The posting came out nearly a month before the Oregonian and Willamette Week articles.
Williamson was relieved of his duties as Port of St. Helens executive director in October 2006 after the Port Commission worked out an agreement for Williamson to transfer to the Regional Maritime Security Coalition as a loaned executive.
The Regional Maritime Security Coalition is a nonprofit business with a focus on waterway and port security, and is a recipient of federal homeland security grants.
Williamson served as the coalition's board chair until he accepted a position as its executive director.
Williamson also worked as the Port's executive director during a time when Johnson served on the Port Commission, and there is a longstanding history of animosity between the two.
Williamson remains as an employee of the Port of St. Helens, and did not return a phone message for comment by press time Tuesday.