Ex-Port of Oakland Officials Offer Lame Strip Club Excuses

Embarassed by strip club spending, former Port honchos don't have stories straight

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jodi Hernandez

    There's only one thing certain about the bill rung up at two strip clubs by Port of Oakland officials -- Omar Benjamin and James Kwon were spending public money.

    Everything else -- from what the money was spent on to who was there when it was spent -- depends on whose story you believe.

    But there's so many lies floating around it's hard to say, observes the San Francisco Chronicle's Chip Johnson.

    Benjamin, who resigned as port director because of the scandal, and James Kwon, the port's maritime director who will depart in seven months, rang up a $4,537 strip club bill in Houston and a $925 bill in Minneapolis, the newspaper reported. At first, they claimed they were entertaining clients, but later it was revealed it was just the two of them.

    Then they claimed that the huge bill was for drinks, not lap dances or other adult entertainment -- and then an attorney for Kwon produced a receipt signed by Benjamin from the Houston club's champagne room.

    Benjamin says the pair were together at both clubs for the entire time, but Kwon says his boss would disappear for up to 90 minutes at a time.

    Meanwhile, Kwon wrote the bogus expense reports, and Benjamin signed for them -- and taxpayers paid for them.

    It may be a convoluted narrative, but it all boils down to a simple thing, according to Johnson: "Benjamin and Kwon were the perpetrators of the scheme to use public dollars for recreation, relaxation and cocktails."

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