Subtitle: OH MY F’in GOD! Are you F’IN kidding me!!!!! REALLY!!!???
HOW BROKEN IS THE F’in SYSTEM?
And here’s what my 14-year-old son, Avi said when he heard about how the day went (when we got home from the hearing):
“What, Mom – are they going to drag this out forever?”
#SmartKid! … and “apparently yes.”
And with that – here’s a story that is as brief a summary as I can give (leading up until today – because I have already published the longer version of it HERE), followed by what happened today — as well as a bit of an editorial by me of how broken the system is, that it would bring us to now [“now” specifically being, my persecution — under the guise of an alleged “inquiry regarding possible impropriety” by a public service agency specifically created with the ostensible mission to serve as a safety net to help alleviate the heavy burden of poverty in our society — yet their actions are directly perpetuating, exacerbating and in our case — causing the poverty they assert they are there to alleviate.] This dissonance, my friends, satisfies the very definition of corruption.
“Short” Abstract: Since February of 2016 my advocacy work has been under attack. Someone allegedly made an “anonymous complaint” that set in motion a series of events, using publicly-funded resources, to try to shut down my Lead-Poisoning prevention work — my work helping families.
First the DOJ started an inquiry (3/2016) , then they passed the buck to the IRS (5/2017) where I was found innocent of the allegations (9/2017). Case Dropped – #1.
Next the DOJ passed the buck to the criminal courts and I was illegally arrested in my kitchen (11/2017) while homeschooling my disabled son! Then, 6-months later (5/2018), the criminal charges (9 counts of felony theft) were dropped in full — because the DA determined that they were unfounded and not supported by the facts. Case Dropped – #2.
Then 2 months after (June 2018) that the State of Oregon decided to pursue the very same twice-disproven allegations, this time in an attempt to find me guilty in a separate administrative court. On February 4th (2019) we were given the opportunity to (again) demonstrate that their argumentation was completely invalid, which my attorney successfully did. Case Dropped – #3.
In response, instead of dropping the case entirely (which would have been the logical and right thing do at the time), they (DHS / DOJ / State of Oregon) chose to drop the case as it stood (2/13/2019), yet fabricate and substitute an entirely new (also false) “theory” and set of argumentation — just a few days before the hearing. They did not officially confirm they were going to drop the old case and pursue the new case until the morning of the hearing (2/19/2019). The administrative judge allowed the last minute complete change of course, even though we came to court fully prepared to argue the original contested case notice and had been given literally no time to prepare a response to this new set of (fabricated) allegations.
As a result my legal team now has to expend additional time and money over the next 2-1/2 months to prepare a response to this latest “new” case filing based on new math and a new assessment of *facts*. Basically DHS dropped the old case (realizing they could not win) and for the second time in a row came up with a new last minute case for us to argue.
The new hearing date is set for May 14, 2019.
SECTION ONE – The History (if you think you already know the history, skip ahead to SECTION TWO!)
- New to this story? Read the full background here.
- February 25, 2016 – I did a Lead-poisoning prevention outreach and education presentation with Bernie Sanders in Flint, Michigan (in a church in a snowstorm!)
- March 2016 – The Oregon DOJ received an “anonymous tip” alleging financial impropriety within the non-profit I founded (Lead Safe America Foundation – LSAF) and launched an “inquiry”
- April 2016 – The IRS started an audit of LSAF. The wildly erroneous numbers and list of other “concerns” they had and were reviewing appeared to originate from data shared with them by the Oregon DOJ.
- August 2016 – I was informed by a lawyer that I had been”fired” from LSAF — without a vote of the Board of Directors [Board Members were not even aware I had been “fired” — and several of them collectively issued a formal written statement strongly objecting to my firing.]
- May of 2017 – I received a letter from the IRS alleging that [based on the bogus numbers they were working with] – I personally owed “over $540,000 in ‘restitution’ – before fines, penalties and interest” for “excess benefit transactions” with the nonprofit I founded(!) Beyond the outlandish and shocking underlying allegation (that I was embezzling money from my charitable foundation), this imagined scenario was especially bizarre and my first reaction was to laugh — because this figure was [MUCH] greater than even the Foundation’s total gross income (i.e. the sum total, before-expenses amount of all the money the organization had raised) during the time in question! My attorney solemnly advised me that “if you were somehow found guilty, you might have to pay a total of nearly $1,000,000!“ I was completely innocent [the entire list of the Oregon DOJ’s “concerns” (their allegations – based solely on this suspiciously timed “anonymous tip” – were of course, totally bogus) — but I still worried about being wrongly accused – and the potential costs, in both time and money, of having to respond to this.
- September 12, 2017 – The IRS concluded their comprehensive investigative audit entirely in my favor, writing a letter stating I had no change whatsoever to my taxes as a result of the audit (and therefore owed absolutely nothing.)
- October 2017 – The attorneys for LSAF had implied (assuring – and practically promising) that if the audit found in our favor, the nonprofit would continue operation, serving its mission of providing education and assistance to families in crisis — but instead, many of the board members loyal or sympathetic to me were pressured/coerced to resign by the lawyers [these are their own words], and the Foundation was abruptly, quietly dissolved – without notification. [A “Temporary Executive Director” was installed by the attorneys; the computers were instantly seized and disposed of, and the large lateral file cabinets with all of our paper records were “disappeared” (when I inquired, I was told that “no one recalls or knows anything about any ‘file cabinets'”)! The storage facilities housing the stocks of LeadCheck testing kits that we mailed out for free to any concerned parents so that they could test their children’s environments for Lead were quietly emptied out and I was similarly subsequently told that “no one knows anything about that”. Finally, my personal office (paid for privately by me and containing no property nor files from LSAF) was illegally broken into, and all of my personal property was seized and disposed of on the same day.] Fortunately, I had backups of the computer files, and was able to obtain copies of other records from the banks, credit card companies, and PayPal, thus, with the help of a forensic bookkeeper, was able to eventually meticulously reconstruct all the financials and supporting receipts, communications, etc. that I would need to refute the DOJ’s list of wild, baseless accusations.]
- Early November 2017 – my attorneys got the full IRS audit information to the DOJ (showing that I was innocent of the allegations). This included 2,300 pages of supporting documentation and the complete set of our financial records in a Quickbooks file.
- November 28, 2017 – I was illegally arrested — in my kitchen while home-schooling my 9-year-old son on “9 counts of felony theft” (based on the same allegations that were submitted to the IRS, yet dismissed in full as unfounded); I was then dramatically handcuffed and stuffed into the back of a unmarked police suv in front of my horrified youngest son and my husband.
- May 10, 2018 – The criminal charges were dismissed in full by the courts as they were determined to be unfounded and not supported by the evidence.
- May 11, 2018 – We served a tort notice to all of the agencies who had participated in this persecution to date, stating our intention to sue them for harassing me and destroying my life (Link).
- Mid-June 2018 – We received paperwork from the State of Oregon pursuing the very same original bogus set of allegations worked up by the DOJ— for which I had been illegally arrested, and cleared (and previously audited, and cleared) — on “an adminstrative basis”. These new charges alleged my family owed $73,000+ to repay DHS benefits we received during the years in question – food stamps, health insurance, etc. – based on the same falsely-alleged *income* that they said I received/embezzled (that had already been disproven by the IRS audit (and which was conclusively shown to not have had any factual basis of any kind.)
- Late-August 2018 – $27,000 of the alleged overpayment of benefits was dismissed (the “stealing health insurance” portion of the allegations). Given the investigative IRS audit made no change to our taxes for 2013, 2014 and 2015 (and we had also been previously audited for 2011 and no change had been made) – the audit also confirmed that we were below the poverty line during all of the years in question and fully qualified for the benefits we received.
- August 24, 2018 – The new amended, reduced alleged overpayment of benefits (alleged theft of food stamps) was reduced to approximately $46,000. Three business days before our August 27th hearing with the State, DHS had sent us a giant box with 1,200 pages of documentation as exhibits (“evidence”) for the hearing. At this point, we did not yet even have any legal representation. We had asked for an extension of time for the hearing so we could find an attorney – but were denied, yet they sent us (low-income parents with disabled children) 1,200 pages of documentation to review for our defense – giving us less than three business days before the hearing to ostensibly review this documentation and prepare for the hearing!
- Monday, August 27, 2018 – At the hearing, we made a case for the extension. We had sent the judge a letter in advance of the hearing making this case based on the DHS shenanigans of giving us 3 days to review 1,200 pages of documentation. We were granted a 90-day extension to find an attorney.
- September – October – November – We looked for an attorney to represent us in this matter. This was not an easy task (we spent our days for three entire months, contacting dozens of attorneys — but we were unable to find someone. Everyone we spoke to either said they weren’t sufficiently familiar with the specific type of case law (DHS courts operate outside of the normal judicial system!), that they had too heavy a caseload to review the mountain of documents and be fully prepared within the remaining time, and/or told us their firm required a very large retainer…
- November 2018 – We finally found an attorney able to take our case
- November 2018 – We “attended” the new hearing date remotely – by phone – and our new attorney asked for a 90-day extension to prepare for the case – which was granted. Our new hearing date was set for Tuesday, February 19, 2019.
SECTION TWO: What Happened In The Past Month:
At each of the last two hearing dates (August and November), the administrative law judge had asked us to “work together with the DHS investigator to try to resolve this case prior to the next hearing”. To this end, we answered every question they had – however it is important to note that they made almost no effort to ask any questions that would potentially clear things up. We also sent them several memos correcting their flatly incorrect assessments and assumptions about the financial data related to the case.
I repeatedly noted in my conversations with my attorney that our interactions with DHS were nothing at all like our interactions with the IRS. The IRS made a concerted effort to ask questions and clarify concerns, reducing the alleged excess benefit with each round of answers until they had all their questions answered (which of course, finally reduced it to zero). The representatives with DHS, on the other hand, have been obstructionist and adversarial from the beginning – not making a concerted effort to clarify or understand any of the details of the meticulous record of financial transactions – which would reduce their alleged amount due – only doing so reluctantly — after my lawyer forcibly drew their attention to many huge, glaring errors on their part which clearly demonstrated the extent to which their allegations were misguided and patently false.
- Monday, February 4, 2019 – My attorney, forensic bookkeeper, and I met with the representative from DHS [two attorneys from the DOJ appeared at that meeting as well – “representing DHS in this matter”], in an ostensible effort to resolve the case prior to the hearing. During this meeting, my attorney pointed out many of the glaring holes in their case (reiterating, in-person, examples that she had given them in advance in writing) – demonstrating why their “data” were incorrect (full of endless, really huge “errors”, and their assumptions, suspicions, conclusions and consequent allegations – based on their crazy- mistake-riddled calculus – were outright false), including the following examples:
- STORAGE: They were calling the business storage for the Foundation (where we stored event supplies and tens of thousands of donated LeadCheck swabs) personal storage for my family — 100% untrue
- REFRESHMENTS: They were calling food we bought for events for volunteers and event attendees (including film preview screenings, volunteer work parties, etc.) personal groceries for my family(!) — 100% untrue
- CHILDCARE (?): They were alleging that some INCOME to the Foundation to help cover the cost of an event in New Hampshire (an event that was a collaborative event with the State of New Hampshire Health Department and a childcare center there) was an expense to pay for childcare for my children in Oregon(!!) [I think they must have been high on mushrooms when they came up with that one! They had (and were ignoring) full documentation for this event in their files, including invoices and flyers for the event!
- CAR: They were alleging that the Foundation’s cars that were used almost exclusively for the film (driving nearly 6,000 miles zig-zagging cross country to meet with families and film their stories) and events here in the Pacific Northwest were somehow my personal vehicles/used primarily for personal uses — 100% untrue.
- Wednesday, February 13, 2019 – In response to the data we presented them on February 4th (that clearly demonstrated their case was completely erroneous) the State continued their pattern of last-moment shenanigans… they contacted my lawyer and told her they were pursuing a new theory, submitting an entirely new contested case notice — using entirely new calculations and new arguments! [Throwing out all of their old allegations and supporting documentation!] Essentially, they were strategically creating and substituting a whole new case against us [in response to having been shown on the 4th that the theory/case they had been peddling for more than a year was based on a mountain of sloppy errors, contradicted by the very “evidence” they had been in possession of from the start – but which they had either never looked at or badly misread – wasn’t going to work for them!] This new contested case notice (which we received a draft of for the first time on February 13th) further reduced the alleged amount we “owe” to approximately $28,000.
…. and I have already spent more than $100,000 in defending (and proving!) my innocence in this matter, yet it’s not over yet – because we still have to fight the new $28,000 in false charges!
What Happened February 19, 2019 at the Hearing:
February 19th was our hearing with the State (DHS). My attorney picked us up and we drove out there together – so we had some additional time to discuss the case. As we started the hearing the Judge said something like: “Okay, I understand we are going to go ahead with a new contested case notice for this case.” And we were like – “Wait, what?”
The proposed new case notice had been sent to my attorney three business days before the hearing! In the week before the hearing, following my attorney’s inquiries to the State about the new/revised case notice (and her memo stating that it was highly unusual – and unfair – to change the entire case with new supporting documentation just a few days before the hearing), the DHS rep and the judge simply did not respond.
Additionally the DHS rep did not file the new contested case notice with the courts prior to the date of the hearing. So, going into the hearing that Tuesday morning, we had no idea if they were going to go with the original case notice (which my attorney clearly demonstrated on February 4th was based on fully bogus argumentation); OR if the judge would simply dismiss the case (based on the argumentation in her letter); OR if they were going to be permitted to go ahead with this new contested case notice based on a “new theory”, *new math*, and newly-manipulated “facts” – an entirely new approach to the State trying to fuck me over because YET AGAIN their most recent tactic – like all their previous tactics – had failed.
When the Judge confirmed that he was going to allow the NEW case notice (and not go ahead with the original full-of-gaping-holes case to which we had prepared a full and solid defense) my lawyer protested.
Since this was again clearly an example of a pattern by DHS (to get us new, additional reams of paper to digest — just days before a hearing, giving us no time to prepare), the DHS administrative Judge had no choice but to reluctantly grant us another 90-day extension to prepare an argument (against this new case).
How is this even allowed? That each time, in each round, when their argumentation is solidly disproven by my lawyers presentation of actual facts – they decide to take a new approach — in the hope that they can make something else “stick”?!
Unable to get any traction with the initial gambit — the ridiculous original allegation that I had somehow embezzled more than $540,000 —they are now scrambling to find some kind of evidence of impropriety – anything they think they might be able to run with in a more lax environment on their home turf (like DHS administrative court) — for instance alleging that I am guilty of some sort of administrative infraction, like fraudulently receiving $28,000 in food stamps benefits for my family over a period five years, during which (as already confirmed by the IRS audit) our family was obviously below the poverty line.
What Does This Mean? (Our interpretation)
Well…in dropping the original case that they had been pursing for the past year, they dropped all of the work that my legal team had put into defending it — involving painstakingly assembling, collating and independently auditing the mountain of transactional analysis and supporting documentation proving beyond any doubt that their original case was clearly entirely baseless (bogus).
This latest random, kaleidoscopic shift of argument focus (tactic) by DHS/DOJ requires that we essentially must start over from scratch in preparing our response/defense – which would seem to be their strategic intention from the outset (keeping me in an endless treadmill of legal battles to distract me from my advocacy work and from caring for my children – wearing me down to a nub in the hopes that I will eventually just give up in spite of my innocence in the matter.)
Basically my attorney used *real facts* to show them that their case against us did not hold up, so – last-minute – their strategy was to attack us on a new level, with an entirely new contested case notice based on entirely new “facts” that they made up to support an entirely new argument (along with an entirely new alleged amount in restitution due – approx. $28,000.)
This is especially ridiculous, given the amount of money both they and I have spent on this case. By no stretch of any imagination could any sane person agree that it is at all in the public interest for them to aggressively pursue a low-income family with disabled children for ever-changing allegations of infractions that have been repeatedly shown (by inquiries with agency after agency – IRS, DOJ, Criminal Courts/DDA, DHS) to not be true.
As a taxpayer my reaction (outside of the fact that this is happening to ME) is, “what an outrageous waste of public funds!”
Not only am I innocent of these allegations – but this has been demonstrated over and over again (that the facts and paper trail do not support their false allegations) YET their continued persecution of me has destroyed my reputation and left me roughly $300,000 in debt – keeping our family in poverty.
This has real impacts: the impact of food insecurity on my children from the past three years is immeasurable; the fact that most of our clothes are tattered and have visible holes in them also has an enormous psychological impact on the kids. The fact that our utilities periodically get turned off because we have no money to pay them ALSO has a huge impact on the kids (this month – March 2019 – we currently have shut-off notices for the electricity and the phones.)
How does this level of inquiry by the State benefit ANYONE?
This is outside of the fact that my work is fundamentally about helping others – filling a gap where there is lack of government services to address (and which government has ultimately failed to adequately address) an ongoing, century-old public health crisis that impacts nearly every child in our country. So not only are they attacking me without merit, but they are attacking a person who has dedicated her life to serve the public good.
I also think that one of the reasons that they may have suddenly dropped their original case – that was built around using the income and expenses of the Foundation as evidence – is that now that they are focusing on a different area (my personal income and expenses), they may believe this will permanently shield them from ever having to divulge [per our legal request that immediately preceded their latest tactical shift] who made the original “anonymous complaint” to the DOJ that started this mess, as their *new math* no longer challenges or takes into account (in their estimation) the income and expenses of the nonprofit at all!
With the next hearing scheduled to take place on May 14, 2019, this also puts us in an awful spot. We were hoping to have this fully resolved before the May 11th deadline for us to file the suit against the State (one year from the date of filing the tort against the State)! Now there is a possibility that it will not be resolved by this deadline — yet we still need to go ahead with filing the tort (and we don’t yet have confirmed representation for that – so I need to crank butt to find an attorney to take that on by May 10th – or before!)
Just add one more critical thing to my to do list, please!
SECTION FIVE – What’s Next?
Right now, fundamentally, what’s next is that we need to raise about $28,000 more to pay the ATTORNEYS and other members of my legal team to fight this ongoing nonsense. I specifically told my legal team that I would rather spend the full $28,000 on their fees fighting this than concede a single dollar in this travesty.
I owe my current (active) attorney about $10,500 – towards her bill and replenishing her retainer. I owe members of my bookkeeping team about $4,000 – and will owe them more over the next month – so would like to pull together about $8,000 for their current bill and future services. That’s $18,000 right there.
While I love donations to help with all of this, I also love paid work. Please do consider hiring me for a speaking gig or two so that I can pay my team and get to the end of this. Here’s a link to information about my speaking gigs and events!
Or… you can donate to my GoFundMe here,
or PayPal me $ to TamaraRubin@mac.com!
Or even send me a check 😉 to:
Lead Safe Mama
7933 SE 15th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97202
Even if you can’t help financially, just reading and sharing this post makes a difference. Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you also for sharing my posts.
Picture here is the administrative court room the morning of the hearing 2/19/19.
I’m buying a few lottery tickets today with you in mind. I could pay off some of your bills and start a lead-awareness non-profit and hire you as the Executive Director, educator, lead-testing trainer, and have oodles of trainees for you to send throughout the world testing for lead each with their own XRF tester!
I wish you well, Tamara. You have inspired me and many others to take a closer look at our surroundings and our possessions. Your work is a gift to the world. Know that. Own that. I realize you have many obstacles and challenges, but your work has probably improved the health of thousands (millions?) of people who are now better informed as to the risks of lead present in consumer products, and paint of course.
Thank you so much, Lauren!
I’m so sorry to hear the *powers that be* are still at it!! This is their waiting game, it seems. I click on your ads every time I come to your site to try to contribute! Wish I could do much more to support your glorious work.