A story incorrectly reported the name of the law firm hired by the Port of Oakland to assist commissioners in an investigation into allegations of improper expenditures. The name of the law firm is Arnold & Porter LLP.
OAKLAND -- James Kwon, the executive accused of spending $4,500 at a Texas strip club then passing the tab to the Port of Oakland, was put on paid leave Friday and told to return to the United States from an overseas business trip.
The move comes one day after Port commissioners put Executive Director Omar Benjamin on paid leave and appointed Deborah Ale Flint to fill his post.
Flint ordered Kwon to return from China.
Kwon, who was hired as maritime director in September 2007, will continue collecting his $214,248 yearly salary during the investigation into allegations that he filed a reimbursement for $4,500 for a dinner at a high-end strip club in Houston.
Expenditures, according to KTVU-TV, whose review of Kwon's receipts sparked the suspensions, also include nearly $500 at a barber shop in Taipei; more than $300 for golf shoes; more than $1,000 for wine; thousands spent at a restaurant and massage parlor in China; and various golf outings that cost more than $1,000 each.
The spending was done before the Port had an established policy about reimbursements. But even now, the policy appears to lack clear accountability.
Port officials have
The delegation of businessmen Kwon was supposed to be entertaining have said they have no record of being at the Houston gentleman's club.
e Port hired Arnold & Porter LLP to audit Port records for other questionable expenditures.
"The Port has engaged independent outside counsel to aid in the on-going investigation of alleged improper expenditures, and that investigation is fully underway," Port officials said in a statement.
Kwon was president and chief executive officer of Total Terminals International in Long Beach before coming to Oakland to help turn around the Port's struggling maritime operations.
Flint was appointed by the Port's deputy executive director, Jean Banker, to temporarily take Benjamin's place.
Benjamin was named executive director in 2007. He had served 10 years as the Port's director of commercial real estate, then the smallest sector of the port's operations. Aside from shipping operations, the Port also maintains the Oakland International Airport, its largest installation.
As of Friday, commissioners still had not answered questions about why they suspended Benjamin. His gross pay in 2011 was $257,508, according to the Port, which he will continue to receive. Benjamin did not return phone calls for comment.