OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — Port of Oakland officials suspended their executive director amid an investigation into a $4,500 strip club expense racked up by the agency’s head of maritime operations.

The port announced late Thursday that commissioners voted unanimously to immediately place executive director Omar Benjamin on “administrative leave” with pay. He was replaced by aviation director Deborah Ale Flint.

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The port made no mention of maritime director James Kwon. Kwon was reimbursed $4,500 for an outing at Treasures, a Houston strip club, while entertaining about a dozen shipping industry executives in 2008. A receipt submitted said the gathering was held at D. Houston Inc., the name of the strip club’s parent company.

KCBS, CBS 5 and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

The Port of Oakland has engaged the firm of Arnold & Porter to investigate the case and determine whether Port of Oakland funds were misused.

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An employee assistance program has been set up by the Port of Oakland to respond to employee concerns.

The Port of Oakland has urged employees to utilize the port’s Whistleblower Hotline to report any potential related issues.

According to the Port of Oakland’s website, a third-party independent provider, EthicsPoint, has been contracted to operate and maintain the Whistleblower Hotline.
Employees can file a report anonymously by calling the Whistleblower Hotline at (866) 840-7787 or online via the Port of Oakland website.

“We continue to take this situation very seriously,” Board President Gilda Gonzales said in a statement. “Holding those responsible, accountable is our highest priority.”

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