Archdiocese of Portland still has problems with its priests

At best, this story shows a disturbing lack of training for Fr. Ysrael Bien.  At worst, it suggests that he may have been involved in sexual misconduct.

Sherwood priest on leave as police investigate hidden camera

A fake outlet that concealed a camera was placed next to the toilet in the men’s room at St. Francis Church in Sherwood.  Per the Oregonian:

A church member initially found a camera – disguised as a power outlet – in a St. Francis bathroom on April 26 and turned it over to Bien.

But Bien didn’t contact police until May 20, when he reported it as stolen.

* * * * * outletcamerajpg-ebf87aaf77d52f2c[1]

The secret camera was placed next to a toilet and would have captured anyone who used the restroom[.]

What the hell is going on here?  Thankfully the Archdiocese has “suspended” Fr. Bien, but the failure of Fr. Bien to report the camera at all until after it was subsequently “lost” speaks volumes about the continuing systemic failure of the Archdiocese to educate parishioners on the reporting of suspected abuse and misconduct.  No mention of whether the camera had bluetooth capability.  Someone could have been—and almost certainly was—taping kids going to the bathroom in the church.  And this idiot doesn’t even report it to anyone for almost a month, and then only does to report it stolen!!!  Something is rotten in the parish of St. Francis.

Trusting individual priests to police themselves or their parishes was shown to be a spectacular failure for the decades leading up to the priest abuse scandal of the 2000s and the Archdiocese’s own bankruptcy in 2004-05.   Yet I’ve seen no communication from the Archbishop to the parishioners to report such misconduct to the Archbishop directly.  That needs to change.  Now.

Archdiocese of St. Paul Charged Criminally

An amazing story out of St. Paul, Minnesota: the Archdiocese of St. Paul is being criminally prosecuted for failing to protect boys from Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer in 2010.  Fr. Wehmeyer had a trailer on the church grounds he used to ply the kids with drugs and alcohol, and abuse them.  He was known to have been unstable and inappropriate throughout his 15+ years of ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul.

The lawsuit is an indictment of the Archdiocese itself , not just individual prelates, and so is also an indictment of the Church’s actions over the last 60 plus years:

The archdiocese’s failure to protect these children is part of an institutional pattern of allowing unsuitable priests to continue working in the church, and have access to children, the complaint says. In an extremely rare move, the complaint does not accuse a specific church leader, but rather the archdiocese corporation as a whole.

The pattern of ignoring warning signs about Wehmeyer was decades-long and blatant:

[T]he archdiocese officials were aware of Wehmeyer’s problematic behavior yet ordained him and allowed him to assume greater duties in church ministry.

When Wehmeyer was admitted to the seminary in 1997, “seminary officials were aware Wehmeyer had a history of abusing alcohol and marijuana, experimented with other drugs, was promiscuous with men and women, was on medication for low-level depression and was in therapy,” the 44-page complaint says.

In 2004, Wehmeyer approached two younger-looking men at a Barnes and Noble in Roseville, seeking to have sex. He was evaluated at a treatment center for troubled priests, and was later put on an archdiocese monitoring program.

But the archdiocese failed to enforce its own restrictions for Wehmeyer, Choi said. He cited a 2010 incident when a priest reported to Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché that on a camping trip Wehmeyer had slept in the same bed with one of the victims.

The criminal charges were driven by the recent nature of the abuse.  Numerous cases have been filed since the passage of the Minnesota Child Victim Act in 2012.  The Child Victims Act allows sexual assault civil lawsuits to be filed even if they’re beyond the statute of limitations for three years after its passage. “David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, credited the legislation for Friday’s civil lawsuit.

Unfortunately, ignoring warnings and the cover-up of misconduct was a hallmark of the mentality prevalent in the Church as a whole, including the Archdiocese of Portland. But once a criminal statute of limitations has run, a person or organization cannot be charged criminally under the Ex Post Facto clause of the Constitution.

The Archdiocese of Portland’s most recent known abuse scandal happened in Woodburn, Oregon in 2012, where Fr. Angel Perez photographed and molested a boy who had been spending the night in the rectory in violation of Archdiocese policies.  Perhaps the Clackamas County DA can look into the Archdiocese of Portland’s conduct there and see if it warrants charges.

Eminent Domain Abuse: Nice airport … it’d be a real shame if anything happened to it.

You would expect this line in a cheesy Mob movie, not from government officials holding the power of eminent domain.  But in New Jersey, it seems the local government has been watching Goodfellas a few too many times.

The dispute involved whether a family’s 726 acre airport was going to be allowed to expand to take in overflow flights from Newark. The family wanted to expand, the local residents had been throwing fits about the airport since 1967.

From a great post by someone I don’t usually look at for condemnation case reports, Weaponsman, comes this great exchange:

Thor Solberg, Jr: “[Y]ou’re taking away my livelihood!”
Monaco: “No, we’re not.”
Mirota: “Not necessarily.”
Solberg: “You know that’s what–you want to take the land.”
Monaco: “We haven’t done that — yet.”
Solberg: “It’s our land.”
Savo: “Let me tell you what our options are. We could go down there tomorrow, right? And [take] just enough to put the airport out of business. I wouldn’t say anything.”

readingtonvsolberg04may15, page 13.

Even better, the Township–in what can only be one of the few preemptive uses of children as human shields by a government entity in the United States of America–decided to  locate a school directly across the street from the airport.  Id.  Go ahead and expand now, and kick the poor children out in the snow!!!  Ha ha, it is so funny, ho ho it is to laugh, if only there weren’t real lives and livelihoods on the line because of this arrogant group of bureaucrats.  And the Township located the school there in direct opposition to strenuous objections from the NJ Department of Transportation.  The township folks knew what they were doing.

When the Solbergs decided to finally sell this trouble to the State, the Township really went nuts.  It decided to condemn property that was subject to active negotiations between a private citizen and the State.   The bond measure to acquire the property at about 60% of the value passed by a comfortable margin of 9%, a solid win in modern electoral circles, but qualified as “narrow” by the court on appeal.  The stated purpose was not for the Township to run the airport—some other party would apparently manage it—but simply to keep the airport small in perpetuity.

In New Jersey, eminent domain can be exercised with broad discretion by municipalities, but “the decision to condemn shall not be enforced where there has been a showing of ‘improper motives, bad faith, or some other consideration amounting to a manifest abuse of the power of eminent domain.'” Borough of Essex Fells v. Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Inc., 289 N.J. Super. 329, 337 (Law Div.1995).  Although the ordinance to acquire the airport by eminent domain on its face might seem acceptable, the court took into consideration the long and contentious history between the Township and the airport, as well as the principle that a municipality only has limited control over airports under state law, to void the condemnation.

Really, the victory for the family and their airport is more properly viewed as a power struggle between the State that needs more air facilities and a local community that wants to stay small.  I wonder if the same result would obtain if the airport was not needed for Newark’s overflow, and was just some out-of-the-way facility.  Maybe after the goombah-type threats in the 1990s against the Solbergs, it would still get struck down.  The Superior Court opinion catalogued a helpful list of cases involving just such bad faith takings, and New Jersey has a well-developed body of case law specifically on that topic (perhaps the bullying mentality just comes with the accent):

[W]here a condemnation is commenced for an apparently valid public purpose, but the real purpose is otherwise, the condemnation may be set aside. Casino Reinv. Dev. Auth. v. Banin, 320 N.J. Super. 342 (Law Div. 1998); Essex Fells, supra, 289 N.J. Super. at 337; Wilmington Parking Auth. v. Land With Improvements, 521 A.2d 227 (De. 1986); see also, Earth Management, Inc. v. Heard County, 248 Ga. 442, 283 S.E.2d 455 (1981) (condemnation of land for a public park was a subterfuge to veil the real purpose of preventing construction of a hazardous waste disposal site); Carroll County v. City of Bremen, 256 Ga. 281, 347 S.E.2d 598 (1986) (condemnation for police and fire training facility voided when real purpose was to prevent the construction of a sewage treatment plant); Pheasant Ridge Assoc. v. Burlington Town, 399 Mass. 771, 1506 N.E.2d 1152 (1987) (land taken for park, recreation and moderate income housing seen as pretext to exclude low or moderate income housing). In 1997, the Supreme Court of New Jersey quoted from Wilmington Parking Auth., supra, 521 A.2d at 231: “In determining whether projects with substantial benefit to private parties are for a public purpose, this Court has held that the trial court must examine the ‘underlying purpose’ of the condemning authority in proposing a project as well as the purpose of the project itself.” City of Atlantic City, supra, 148 N.J. at 73.

Opinion at 21-22.  In any event, this is a substantial case for New Jersey, and hopefully a bellwether for other jurisdictions to take up a vigorous doctrine of looking at the motives behingd condemnation actions.  All too often, this kind of government power is abused to hurt folks who can’t afford over 30 years of threats and 10 years of litigation.

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How Can We Help?

Please find me at The Zalkin Law Firm

The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C.

10590 W Ocean Air Dr. #125

San Diego, CA 92130

Tel:  858-259-3011

Fax:  858-259-3015

Colorado Office:

32186 Castle Court, Suite 240B

Evergreen, CO  80439

Kristian Roggendorf remains one of the most skilled and experienced child abuse lawyers in the Pacific Northwest, and now is part of one of California’s premier sex abuse survivor law firms, the Zalkin Law Firm.  Primarily representing adult victims of institutions such as the Catholic Church, LDS Church, Boy Scouts, Oregon school districts, the Oregon Department of Human Services and other institutions responsible for the welfare of children, Kristian also represents plaintiffs in appeals and citizens who have had their property condemned, destroyed, or damaged by the government.




If you are a victim of abuse, the first thing you must know is that the child abuse you suffered was never your fault.  Children cannot consent to sexual contact either legally or morally, and adults bear a heavy responsibility to maintain healthy, appropriate relationships with children at all times.  When it comes right down to it, you were just a kid.  If you haven’t already, go and find a therapist to talk to.  A convenient list of local Portland are therapists is here:  OAASIS.  Litigation is not the answer in every case, but it can often be a huge step on the road to your healing.

Child Molesters Use Churches to Get to Kids

These two stories in the Oregonian shows how child abusers can be anyone, and that they love to infiltrate places where they can appear trustworthy.

Jon Patrick Wheat is already a registered sex offender, but still was able to gain access to and some measure of control over a 6 year old girl at a church in Oregon City.

Wheat’s story follows closely on the heels of another church abuse case, that one from Salem, where Peter James Bass pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree rape of a girl under 16.

So, why do child molesters gravitate to institutions of trust like churches,schools, Scouting, LDS missions, mentor clubs, and youth ministries?  To paraphrase John Dillinger, that’s where the kids are.   But it’s more than that.  These organizations are trusted in our society.  When a molester gets into the organization as a volunteer or employee, he (usually, but not always a “he”) gains a small part of that trust just by showing up.  Trust is the key to a child molester’s method.  If a child trusts an adult, even a little, that trust can be expanded upon and exploited to move the child down the path of grooming to abuse.

A lot of people are concerned about the stranger in the park with puppies.  And it’s right to be concerned about that.  But the number of stranger-danger assaults pale in comparison to those committed by trusted friends, ministers, volunteer leaders, or even family members.  Child molesters don’t look like misshapen Quasimodoes shuffling around with their pants down.  At least not the successful ones.

Remember the basic rule: if an adult is interested in spending time alone with your child, they should be considered guilty until proven innocent, and you should educate your children to recognize warning signs and get away, then tell you about it.

We have rules in criminal cases in courts of law that say that everyone is presumed innocent.  As a legal matter, that is fine.  But you don’t have to live your life that way, or risk your children’s long term health and safety because of it.

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Oregon Appellate Review – Court rejects ski releases for resort’s own negligence in Oregon

Just before Christmas last year, the Oregon Supreme Court decided Bagley v. Mt. Bachelor, Inc., 356 Ore. 543, 340 P.3d 27 (2014), a case involving a young and promising snowboarder left paralyzed by what was asserted to be a bad jump at the Mt. Bachelor ski resort.  That young man, Miles Bagley, took a jump on a terrain park that caused him to fall badly, breaking his neck.  As a result, he sued the resort because a poorly designed jump is not an “inherent risk” of snowboarding.  His case was dismissed based on the release he signed as part of his season pass.  The release absolved the resort of all responsibility for anything that happened at all on the mountain.  Such a broad and unthinking release is not legitimate in my opinion, and the result here was particularly unjust.

I wrote an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, showing how widespread these “complete” releases really are.  You can read the brief her: Amicus MERITS Final (8MB file).  I hope it was helpful to the Court, but more importantly, the Oregon Supreme Court made a strong statement in favor of consumers and “little guy” by saying that complete releases were unconscionable in certain circumstances—including Miles’ case.

He hasn’t won yet, but at least now he has the chance to prove his case.  The analysis that went into the unconscionability analysis will be discussed more when I look at the Hoodoo Ski Bowl decision from last month.

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