James Kwon, the maritime director at the center of the travel reimbursement-scandal at the Port of Oakland, was ordered to return from overseas business travel and immediately placed on paid administrative leave Friday by Acting Port Director Deborah Ale Flint, the port authority said.
On Thursday, the board of commissioners placed Executive Director Omar Benjamin on paid administrative leave, following revelations of allegedly improper claims for travel expenses by employees. Port officials since 2010 have tightened rules regarding travel expenses after questionable attempts for reimbursement several years ago, but the problem took on a new life last week after a local media outlet unearthed a $4,500 receipt
for entertaining freight industry officials at a strip club in Houston.
The report identified Kwon as the one who submitted the reimbursement claim for the strip club as well as claims to cover other personal expenses.
Kwon remained on active duty, even though his boss was placed on administrative leave, until Flint acted.
At Flint's direction, Deputy Executive Director Jean Banker will also assume Kwon's role. Kristi McKenney, manager of aviation planning and development, will serve as acting director of aviation, and Hugh Johnson, associate aviation project manager, will cover McKenney's responsibilities in addition to his own.
Port officials have mounted an investigation of the alleged fraud.
The port authority manages the Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport. - Eric Kulisch