The Oregonian lauded for
embezzlement coverage
by Cliff Walker

Note: The following was printed in The Oregonian
on January 17, 1997, in response to the front-page article below
 

Addiction doesn't excuse crime;
accountability will help all recover

Abandoning its usual practice of trying to soften responsibility for the addiction-motivated crimes of high officials, The Oregonian finally tells It like it is. Using such words as "swindle," "stole" and "embezzlement" in the headlines, The Oregonian used frankness in describing Pioneer Courthouse Square operations manager David C. Cook's embezzlement of $90,000 from the organization.

Addiction is no excuse for committing a crime, and we should stop allowing addiction to be a mitigating factor in sentencing. Addiction is a choice, not a disease.

The "powerlessness" thinking of the popular addiction movement is partially responsible for mass addiction in our society in recent decades. By refusing to paint Cook as a victim of some "irresistible compulsion," The Oregonian comes much closer to helping Cook and others like him come to terms with self-control and personal responsibility.

The sooner we start calling it what it is -- theft -- and the sooner we start holding people accountable for the crimes they commit, the faster our culture will begin to recover from the damage caused by addicted people.

CLIFF WALKER, Portland coordinator
Rational Recovery Self-Help Network
Southeast Portland


Boss Swindles Pioneer Square
The operations manager admits that he stole
almost $90,000 to feed a gambling addiction

The operations manager for Pioneer Courthouse Square has turned himself in to authorities after an audit showed that nearly $90,000 apparently had been embezzled from the organization.

Anne Kelly Feeney, executive director for Pioneer Courthouse Square,said David C. Cook, the operations manager, had access to the funds as part of his routine duties. She said Cook submitted a letter admitting his actions.

"Dave Cook says he spent the money on what he calls a 'gambling addiction,"' Feeney said in a statement Wednesday night.

Cook, 28, was being held late Wednesday at the Justice Center jail on eight counts of aggravated first-degree theft. He was expected to be released later on his own recognizance.

Feeney said Cook was placed on unpaid leave.

Feeney said the discovery of apparent embezzlement was "absolutely devastating."

"This is one of those horrible, awful things that happen,"she said. "None of us had any inkling that was going on.''

She described Cook as a "peach of a guy" who has done good work on behalf of the square.

Cook joined the organization in March 1995. As operations manager, he was in charge of the facility -- including maintenance and security -- and finances.

Feeney said the money was discovered missing Tuesday, during the first full audit of the organization's finances. Before this year, she said, a certified public accountant did an annual review of the group's finances.

Feeney said Cook arranged to turn himself in to the Multnomah County district attorney's office.

Although Feeney said the missing money was a very significant amount, she said it came from a fund reserved for renovating the popular downtown square, not from its $600,000 annual operating budget.

Feeney said the organization has been trying to raise $1 million in donations to renovate the square. The group was within about $150,000 of that target.

"This is a tragedy for the young man and his family as well as a setback in our efforts to raise money to make badly needed renovations to the square, and we will do everything possible to recover the money," Arnold Cogan, board president of the nonprofit organization that manages Pioneer Courthouse Square for the city, said in a statement.

Portland City Commissioner James Francesconi, whose office oversees Pioneer Courthouse Square, called the matter a serious transgression. He said he wants outside professionals to look into accounting practices to find out how long the embezzlement might have been going on and "to see if there are any lessons to be learned."

Feeney said new internal controls have been put in place.