Bend employee under investigation

By Hillary Borrud The Bulletin
Published Apr 21, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Apr 21, 2014 at 05:57AM

A city of Bend employee previously disciplined for going on a hunting trip partially paid for by a city contractor is once again under investigation.

The city placed Utilities Construction Supervisor Chris Brelje on paid leave April 16, city spokesman Justin Finestone wrote in an email. It is unclear why Brelje was placed on leave.

Human Resources Director Rob DuValle said he could not comment on the situation because he is conducting a personnel investigation. “It is my role to conduct the investigation in an impartial manner that ensures fairness to all persons involved the process,” DuValle wrote in an email. “I am unable to comment further at this point in time.”

DuValle wrote he was unaware until informed by The Bulletin that Brelje had appeared in an advertising brochure for a company called SolarBee, which sold solar-powered water treatment equipment to the city. DuValle did not know whether any city employee authorized Brelje to appear in the SolarBee materials. In the ad, Brelje stands next to a solar panel, atop one of the city’s water treatment tanks.

“Do you want high quality water in your town?” the company quotes Brelje as asking. “Then put a SolarBee mixer in your tank.”

The company goes on to quote additional comments by Brelje.

Under the city of Bend’s ethics policy, employees cannot accept “any personal benefit” from any vendor that does business, or seeks to do business, with the city.

It is unclear whether Brelje received payment or any other benefit for his participation in the advertisement. The Dickinson, N.D.-based parent company of SolarBee was closed for Good Friday, and Brelje could not be reached for comment.

In 2011, the city disciplined Brelje after an internal investigation revealed he went on an all-expenses-paid hunting trip in 2006. The city never revealed the type of discipline Brelje faced, nor did the investigative report name all of the companies that paid for the hunting trip. The cost of the trip was estimated at $600, and the only company identified in the report as having paid for the trip was local parts supplier Consolidated Supply Co. Other companies were involved, but the law firm hired by the city to investigate, Harrang Long Rudnick Gary PC, did not identify them.

The investigation was sparked by an anonymous complaint emailed to city councilors, claiming that Brelje funneled business to his friend Rob Jackson, who in 2006 was a salesman for Consolidated Supply and later became the co-owner of Creative Utility Solutions LLC.

The city spent $2.9 million with Consolidated Supply and more than $700,000 with Creative Utility Solutions from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2011, The Bulletin reported. However, the city’s purchasing manager reviewed all transactions with the companies during the time and did not find any indication that employees violated city purchasing guidelines.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com