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Oregonian: Education officer a frequent traveler

Jul 17, 2013


By The Associated Press

PORTLAND — Oregon's first chief education officer billed the state for personal travel expenses, took six weeks of paid vacation, and tried to get the state to pay for perks such as first-class plane tickets, a newspaper investigation shows.

Official Rudy Crew earned an annual salary of $280,000 and frequently traveled out of state during his year as Oregon's first overseer of preschool through college education, The Oregonian reported Wednesday.

He had been hired to implement Gov. John Kitzhaber's plans to remake the state public education system.

Records indicated that his travels included a daylong visit to Santa Fe schools to honor a former colleague, at a cost of $1,118, and a quick visit to Los Angeles to teach a four-hour course at the University of Southern California, his former employer, costing $552.

The Oregonian said Crew was unavailable for comment. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach him through his new job were not immediately successful.

Crew served amid high expectations, and he pitched four initiatives that he said would deliver the biggest results. The Legislature, however, gave up just a fraction of the $150 million he sought for the programs.

In June, he was named president of Medgar Evers College. A separation agreement said the state wouldn't ask him to repay travel expenses.

The governor's office installed Lisa Van Laanen as his chief of staff in April.

She said Crew was unfamiliar with state government restrictions on travel expenses and outside work. He answered to the Oregon Education Investment Board, which didn't have a process to review his travel or outside work, so he made those decisions on his own, she said.

State accounting officials rejected his requests to pay $336 for a town car to drive him between his Salem home and the Portland airport for a three-day trip in February to Washington, D.C., plus $350 to upgrade his plane ticket to first-class.

Crew said the town car would save money, because it would have required $210 in valet airport parking and $270 worth of his time if he had driven himself.

Crew also billed the state $850 for a flight to Anchorage and a first-class flight back for a trip that he subsequently decided not to take. The state could not recoup the money, Van Laanen said.

During the legislative session, he traveled to Washington, D.C., Santa Fe, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and the Bahamas.

Some trips were related to Oregon education, such as the San Diego meeting of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Others were not, and the state did not pay any expenses.

Others, like the trip to Santa Fe, were not related to his work for Oregon, but Crew had the state pay the plane fare and rental car tab, the newspaper reported.

“It was hard for us to track who paid for what and when it was personal and when it was professional,” Van Laanen said. “There was supposed to be a process in which he sought approval through the OEIB for any outside work, but a process was never established.”

Of the trip to teach a class at USC, she acknowledged, “we should not have paid for that one.”

She said Crew pushed back when she was brought in to bring his office into compliance with state rules and regulations.

Asked for comment, Kitzhaber's aides said the governor's office took steps to implement an approval process for Crew's expenses.

“As soon as the issue was brought to our attention we worked with the board to prepare an approval process, including the creation of a management subcommittee,” said an email from spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki. “While that process was being implemented Dr. Crew resigned.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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