Ships in public docks were illegally seized and destroyed (2023)

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In October 2022, the ombudsman received a complaint about the towing of boats from Stadsdok. Initial analysis of the complaint revealed concerns about program-wide issues, prompting the Ombudsman to launch a comprehensive investigation into the process and practices surrounding Portland Parks and Recreation's 2022 boat impoundment.

Our investigation revealed a widespread pattern of parks not complying with state and city laws regarding the towing of vessels from public docks. The investigation also revealed serious questions of justice, as the agency's practices led to the confiscation of valuable property belonging to some of the most marginalized members of society and in some cases left them homeless.

Based on the results of the investigation, we recommended that Parks bring its policies and practices into compliance with state and city laws. We also recommended that parks align their outreach practices and tugs with the city's approach to community members living in tents or vehicles. In addition, we asked Parks to immediately notify affected shipowners of their right to submit claims to Risk Management. Parker has accepted our recommendations.

The city council will tow ships from public docks

The city serves many public ports. These include Willamette Park Boat Ramp and Deck, Cathedral Park Pier and Deck, Sellwood Riverfront Pier and Handcraft Launch, Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Parks North and South Breakwater Docks and Swan Island Pier and Pier. Portland City Code 19.16.060 governs how the public may use these docks. In most cases, ships are not allowed to dock at the city quay for more than 24 hours or when the park is closed. The city code also authorizes the director of parks to tow vessels from city docks pursuant to Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 830.908 through 830.948. These state laws require certain steps to be taken as part of the pre-seizure, seizure and post-seizure vessel towing and sale process to ensure a fair trial for boat owners. In addition, Oregon Administrative Regulations (OAR 250-026-0020) describe what information law enforcement agencies must share with the Oregon Maritime Council in the event of a vessel seizure.

Parks previously had an intergovernmental agreement with Multnomah County to tow ships from city docks on behalf of the city. In late 2021, after the contract expired and difficulties in obtaining a new contract, Parks became the first to start its own process of towing ships from city docks. According to Parks staff, Parks referenced the Oregon Maritime Administration's 2020 guidelines (The Agency's Abandoned and Abandoned Vessel Enforcement Guide) when developing the Boat Towing Protocol. From our review of the guide, state laws governing boat towing are clearly defined, indicating that Parks had access to precise guidance on how to legally confiscate and dispose of boats.

If a vessel is left on a public wharf without a permit, the enforcement agent may consider it abandoned and subject to the seizure procedures described in ORS 830.911 to 830.944. In order to proceed with the seizure of vessels, the enforcement authority (parks in the case of city docks) must notify the owners at least ten business days before the seizure of the vessel. State statutes provide an exception to the ten-day notice and permit the immediate seizure without notice of vessels that pose a hazard to navigation or an imminent threat to the public health or safety (ORS 830.923). A prior notice must be affixed to the vessel, sent to the last persons listed in the Oregon Maritime Administration's records as owners of the vessel, and sent to any other person that law enforcement has reason to believe is the owner of the vessel. ship. The pre-seizure notification should specify the time frame within which shipowners must take measures to prevent the seizure of the ship and the right to appeal the seizure.

Figure 1: How the process of confiscating abandoned ships should work

With prior notification of seizure, the vessel can be seized after ten working days by towing the vessel or by placing a notice on the vessel stating that the vessel has been seized on the spot. After the vessel is seized, the enforcement agent must send a notice of seizure to the owners within seven days and post a copy of the notice on the enforcement agent's website. The follow-up notice must contain information about the time of the seizure and the reason for it. It should also include the contact information for the law enforcement agency, specify that the owners can request a hearing, and specify how the ship and its contents are to be recovered. If the owner requests a hearing, they can dispute the seizure and/or the legitimacy of any salvage, towing or storage costs. The post-seizure notification should also inform the owners that title to the vessel will be transferred to the enforcement agency if the costs associated with towing and storing the vessel are not paid. According to the law, the ownership of the ship cannot be transferred to the enforcement authority within 30 days from the date of the seizure of the ship.

A pattern of illegal and fraudulent park towing and removal has resulted in Portland residents losing shelter and property

To begin with, we discovered that capturing and destroying ships too early seemed to be standard in Parks. Our extensive investigation of the six boats towed by Parks in 2022 identified several issues that caused major problems with Parks' boat towing and disposal processes.

Questions in connection with the Park's handling of pre-occupation notices

  • Parker placed multiple prior seizure notices on the same vessel without law enforcement. This left community members understandably confused about when messages merited a response and when they were of little importance.
  • Parker's advance notices used calendar days to calculate when a seizure might occur, not business days as required by ORS 830.918. As a result, community members were misinformed about the time they needed to move their ships from the city's harbor to avoid having their ships confiscated, and Parks therefore confiscated the ships prematurely.
  • In the prior seizure notice, the notice of complaint was worded in such a way as to mislead members of the community as to whom they should complain. In addition, the ordinances did not specify a calendar or business days for the appeal process as required by City Code 3,130,020. The lack of transparent communication meant that community members received unclear information about how to lodge a complaint and when it could be done, creating barriers to exercising the right to complain.
  • Parks failed to provide the Oregon Maritime Administration with a copy of the pre-seizure notice on the same day it was sent to the owner as required by Oregon Administrative Regulation 250-026-0020, which is a violation of state law and a failure of administration.

Figure 2: This park's advance notice mistakenly uses calendar days instead of weekdays to notify boat owners that their vessel is at risk of impoundment

Ships in public docks were illegally seized and destroyed (2)

Questions in connection with the parks' implementation of the rules for seizure, repossession and removal of vessels

  • Parker erroneously treated the vessels as seized after placing a notice of prior arrest on the vessel without sending a separate notice of seizure on the vessel as required by ORS 830.928(1)(b). In one instance, Parks sent a letter to the owner informing him that his vessel had been impounded on the spot. However, state law requires law enforcement to post a notice on the vessel stating that the vessel has been impounded and including the name, address, and telephone number of the law enforcement agency (ORS 830.928(1)(b)). As a result of this error, Parks destroyed the vessels 30 days after the pre-seizure notice, with the vessel never being seized. This act deprived the boat owner of the right to reclaim the vessel after seizure. Oregon law makes it clear that prior notice must be sent to boat owners before a vessel can be impounded. Seizure of the vessel can then take place 10 working days after the notification of prior arrest, either by physical seizure of the vessel (i.e. towing) or by placing a notice on the vessel indicating that the boat has been seized on the spot.
  • Due to a lack of records, it is unclear whether Parks consistently issued notices to boat owners after their vessels were impounded. Park records show that for some vessels, the required notices were sent to boat owners after the boats were impounded. However, Parks was unable to provide copies of post-possession notices for each vessel he towed, making it unclear whether Parks consistently followed state law in his post-possession conduct. Notifications sent when a boat is impounded inform boat owners that their vessel has been impounded and provide information on how to recover it. Failure to notify after seizure deprives boat owners of their right to information about their vessel and personal property.
  • The park's impound notices to boat owners do not include a description of personal property as required by ORS 830.931(3). This lack of documentation led boat owners to withhold information about the personal property involved in the seizure, jeopardizing their right to a fair trial.
  • Parks engaged a dealer who regularly destroyed the boats immediately after towing, instead of holding them for the required 30 days so the owners could pick up the vessel and/or file an appeal. It appears from the seller's invoices that the ships were damaged in periods from seven days after towing to the same day of towing. The parks thus wrongfully disposed of community members' vessels and personal belongings, unfairly and unjustly causing community members to lose their property and, in some cases, their shelter.

Contact with people living on ships and removal of personal belongings

  • Parks did not ask the welfare authorities to find a constructive solution for the community members who live on their ships. This is in contrast to the way the city typically treats people living in tents, cars or RVs. Involving community services will help provide vulnerable community members with the resources they need and ensure that towing a vessel does not deprive a vulnerable community member of basic human needs such as shelter.
  • Parker regularly removed boat owners' personal belongings from their vessels before towing them, but did not inventory those items. The boaters' personal belongings were initially removed and stored in the parks by the boat towing provider, A-1 Marina; this service later came from Rapid Response. As a result, Parks was unable to include the boat owners' personal effects. This practice increases the likelihood that the congregation may illegally deprive members of the community of necessary personal possessions, such as medicine or identification documents. This is in stark contrast to the way the Impact Reduction program treats the personal belongings of people living in non-residential shelters (tents, RVs, etc.). The impact reduction program includes written procedures for handling personal property removed from camps. These include an inventory of personal belongings taken from campsites and recording this information in a text-searchable database.

Registration and purchase processes

  • Parks was unable to provide us with copies of the records after seizing all the ships he towed in 2022, nor provide photos or records of personal effects associated with each of his sleepers. This lack of documentation raises concerns about Parks' ability to ensure a fair trial for community members and a proper review of his own trial.
  • Parks has not contracted for services provided by its vendor, A-1 Marina, for which Parks paid a total of $32,578 in a distributed procurement series in 2022. The city's procurement rules state that distributed purchase orders may only be used to pay suppliers if when the total amount of goods and services does not exceed USD 10,000. The involvement of a vendor without a contract raises concerns about a lack of oversight of the vendor's practices and may increase the city's potential liability risk.
  • Parks selected A-1 Marina as the vendor without an open, competitive bidding process in violation of City Code (5.33.190), which requires the agency to obtain three bids for purchases over $10,000 but less than $150,000. The lack of participation in an open, competitive procurement process prevents a reasonable and efficient use of the city's resources.

The practice of confiscating and disposing of boats in parks has harmed marginalized people

Parks' failure to comply with state law and city code had serious consequences for affected community members. The following cases highlight the impact of Park's practices on Portland residents.

A Portland resident lost his sanctuary and his rightful chance to reclaim his ship when the Parks legally confiscated their boat but crashed their boat prematurely.

Boatowner A was living on his boat at North Breakwater Docks when Parks began reporting him for non-compliance with dock regulations and issued several voluntary compliance notices between November 2021 and March 2022 without initiating enforcement proceedings.

On April 2, 2022, Parks issued advance notice to Owner A that his vessel would be impounded on April 22, 2022. On April 13, 2022, Parks also issued an enforcement notice to Owner that Owner cannot board vessel. 30 day docking. The owner appealed both the attachment order and the attachment order to the Hearing Office. The Bureau of Hearings ruled in favor of Parks in both cases and upheld Parks' pre-purchase notice and notice of foreclosure. For Boat Owner A's vessel, Parks complied with ORS 830.918's requirement to provide 10 business days' notice of impoundment. This appears to be an exception to Parks' typical practice of applying a ten-day notice period, as noted in other pre-attachment notices we have reviewed.

However, Parks did not comply with state ship storage laws and promptly disposed of the ship after it was impounded on July 6, 2022. Parks was also unable to provide us with a copy of the post-confiscation notice or photos of the personal effects. Parker had been taken from the ship. Park records show that belongings belonging to Boat Owner A belonged to Marina A-1, the same dealer that towed and disposed of the vessel. According to Parks, the owner did not take any personal belongings with him. Due to a lack of notification after the seizure, it is not clear if and how Parks informed the owner how to do this. It is possible that the owner was unaware of his rights to repossess the vessel and/or property or to a post-arrest hearing.

According to the owner's application to the interrogation office prior to the seizure, his vessel had been damaged by theft, making it impossible to remove it from the berth. The owner was doing repairs and had nowhere to stay but on his ship. While Parks followed the pre-seizure legal process to initiate enforcement proceedings, its failure to comply with the laws before and after the seizure left the owner with no legal recourse to recover the vessel or property. The parks also failed to ensure that the owner had access to adequate and appropriate social services prior to taking over the shelter. It is not clear what happened to the owner after the ship was seized.

Parks destroyed another member of the boating community without proper notice of the seizure

The records show that Boat Owner B regularly visited his vessel at the North Breakwater dock and paid mooring fees where possible. The owner informed Parks staff via handwritten notes on his vessel that they were repairing the engine and that they would move the boat once the repairs were completed. Between November 2021 and March 2022, Parks placed several voluntary compliance notices on board the vessel without initiating enforcement proceedings.

On June 15, 2022, Parks sent the owner an advance notice, and on June 25, 2022, Parks sent the owner a letter falsely stating that the vessel had been seized by Parks. However, Parks did not put a notice on the ship that it had been confiscated on the spot. Parker failed to give ten days notice prior to the seizure as required by section 1. 830.918(1) and failed to comply with ORS 830.928(1)(b), which provides that the enforcement agency must seize a vessel in place, and a notice on the vessel , announcing that it has been seized.

In August 2022, Parks began coordinating the towing of the vessel, scheduled for August 24, 2022. While coordinating the tow, the tugboat salesman Parks noted that the owner had sent a note that they were waiting at the motor shop and that their father had done it. so. death. The tow seller asked Parks if the tow would still take place, to which Parks replied in the affirmative and sent the ship a written notice with the date of the tow. This was not a formal warrant or seizure, but a general notice of voluntary compliance and an attempt by Parks to notify the boat's owner of the impending tow.

However, Parks made no attempt to call or email the owner to notify him of the impending tow, even though he knew the owner had just suffered a loss and might not be able to return to his vessel for some time . Although not required as part of the process, a basic courtesy would be a quick phone call or quick email to the owner. As a result, a community member may have lost the opportunity to comply with Parks' request to move the vessel or to work with Parks to find a mutually beneficial solution.

Figure 3: This notice indicates the owner's request for additional time to comply with the Park's notice to remove the vessel from the dock due to living conditions

Ships in public docks were illegally seized and destroyed (3)

Figure 4: Parks responded to the owner's request for more time by noting the vessel's impending towing date, but did not attempt to call or email the owner despite having his contact information

Ships in public docks were illegally seized and destroyed (4)

As with the other five boats towed in 2022, the Parks seller illegally disposed of Owner B's vessel before the 30-day storage requirement expired. After learning of the ship's towing, the owner contacted Parks to inquire about the ship and personal effects and expressed his personal involvement with the ship.

Although Parks personnel were able to advise the owner on how to retrieve items removed from the ship, the ship itself had already been destroyed. The owner was also never informed of his right to request a hearing within ten working days of the seizure of the vessel. The owner recovered his personal belongings taken from the ship by Parks, indicating that he had invested in his property. Had the owner been aware of his right to be heard, he could have seized the opportunity.

One of the Portlanders lost his home and personal possessions as a result of Park's wrongful seizure and destruction of his ship

Parker impounded and towed a sailboat moored at the South Breakwater docks for not complying with published rules, including missing deadlines and spending the night at the dock without permission. The ship's owner lived on the boat.

Between November 2021 and March 2022, Parks sent nine notices to the ship requesting voluntary compliance with the docking rules. When Parks tried to tow the ship in the spring, he could not because the owner was on board and had removed the ship from the dock himself. Specifically, Parks issued a notice of pre-seizure on April 2, 2022. Seller Parks attempted to tow the vessel on April 29, 2022, but the owner was on board and, according to the owner, moved his vessel from the dock to comply with Parks' request to remove it. Parks again notified the ship at the dock in May 2022 and sent four more voluntary compliance notices on the ship between May 2022 and September 2022.

On September 29, 2022, Parks issued a notice of prior seizure of the vessel indicating that the vessel may be seized on or after October 9, 2022, 10 calendar days after the notice, if it is not moved from berth. On 12 October 2022, nine working days after notification of the seizure, the vessel was detained and towed from the wharf. As part of the impoundment, Parks sought the assistance of the Portland Police Department, as the owner of Boat C had initially been misidentified as another person who docked his boat in the harbor, which was documented as a security risk. During the tow, the police stopped and arrested the owner of boat C, who was on board their vessel.

During the tow, Parks worked with Rapid Response to remove some of the boat owner's personal belongings from the vessel. Rapid Response took pictures inside the ship but did not record any personal items being removed or left behind. In addition, Parks failed to put the owner in touch with social services that could have given him safe passage to another shelter before the vessel was impounded.

The owner appealed the towing to City Hall. On October 24, 2022, the hearing officer ruled that Parks' seizure of the boat violated the requirements of ORS 830.918(1) to wait at least ten business days before seizing an abandoned vessel and ordered Parks to provide notice to appellants within three days. months. working days. However, Parks' seller had already dismantled and disposed of the vessel.

When the owner learned that their boat had been destroyed prematurely and that Parks had withheld this information during the hearing, he filed a motion to impose a sanction against Parks. The Ombudsman issued a letter in support of the proposed sanctions. The Bureau of Hearings again ruled in favor of the appellants and imposed the maximum civil penalty ($10,000) on Parks for withholding material facts on appeal.

Although appellants obtained a favorable outcome at the hearing office, Parks' actions left the owner without shelter and property of personal value. In addition, Parks' cooperation with the police based on misidentification unnecessarily aggravated the situation, causing distress and injury to the owner. It is also not clear whether Parks had the legal authority to remove the owner of Boat C from his vessel in order to tow it.


The Ombudsman's office understands and has the authority to tow vessels from city docks to raise legitimate health, environmental and park safety concerns. However, parks must comply with state and municipal regulations and must treat community members fairly and humanely. To break the cycle of illegal practices and redress those affected, we recommend the following parks:

1. Immediately notify any boat owner who has had their vessel towed of the accidental premature destruction of their vessel and of their right to file a claim with the Risk Management Department. Notice must be given by letter or other contact related to known boat owners, such as telephone numbers and/or e-mails.

2. Establish a written procedure for the towing and removal of Parks boats that meets all requirements of ORS 830.908 to 830.948, including pre-arrest, seizure, and post-arrest/removal requirements.

3. Follow established information and documentation processes when boat towing involves persons living on their vessels. This includes providing the exact date of seizure, maintaining a searchable record of all personal property taken by Parks, providing timely and accurate information on how to recover personal property, and notifying any homeless service organizations with which the Joint Homeless Office partners To take. above a ship that serves as a shelter for a member of the community.

4. When engaging contractors to tow boats, comply with municipal procurement laws and maintain appropriate oversight, including requiring contractors to maintain proper records of pre-arrest and post-arrest notifications, and review records regularly to assess compliance with state and urban areas. be respected.

5. Determine if Parks is authorized to remove personal effects from towed vessels. If Parks believes he has such authority and Parks decides to remove the property from the vessels, the property must be consistently inventoried and photographed, and Parks will clearly and promptly notify boat owners of how their property will be restored.

6. Keep accurate and well-documented records of all city-initiated towing services to ensure a fair trial and due process for boat owners. Proper record keeping includes maintaining a searchable list of all vessels that have received notices of compliance or enforcement procedures (including voluntary compliance notices, pre-arrest notices and post-seizure notices) and folders of related documents. (e.g. copies of ordinances, correspondence with boat owners, photos of chattels, towing bills, etc.).

7. Exercise timely care in coordinating police efforts to obtain assistance. The police's assistance should be used sparingly, e.g. against persons who are documented as a security risk. Before calling the police, parks should consider whether it would be more appropriate to hire people certified in non-violent de-escalation of difficult situations, similar to the city's Impact Reduction Program.

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