Portland Grants, Delay $12M To Faulty Exec

There is now some controversy around a grant approved by the City Council. Linda Woodly, got into the energy industry in the 1980s, selling fossil fuels to a variety of industrial and commercial customers on the west coast. Woodley, a black exec, arrived in Portland seven years ago, and soon thereafter launched Prisma Point consulting firm that specializes in designing energy efficiency programs for historically underserved markets and promoting diverse management in the energy industry.

The city of Portland granted Woodly a 12M contract, issued by the fund’s grants committee and unanimously approved by the City Council, which was made despite concerns from city staffers about Diversifying Energy’s high personnel costs and proposed delivery timeline.

Woodley formed Diversifying Energy just over a year ago, records show. The organization aims “to facilitate equitable access to clean, sustainable energy and improve air quality to vulnerable populations, including low-income communities and people of color,” according to its website.

“She is quite well known in those circles especially when it comes to equity work,” said Robin Wang, who is on the city’s clean energy fund grants committee. Wang previously led a Portland nonprofit focused on lending to people of color and women denied access to conventional loans, on whose board Woodley served for two years.

But there’s trouble, Linda Woodley served time in prison long ago for defrauding energy companies and pocketing the proceeds. She’s racked up millions of dollars in liens for unpaid federal or state taxes in Oregon and two other states, including a six-figure penalty filed earlier this year.

Neither city staffers nor grants committee members knew of Woodley’s troubling past, Portland officials told the media, when the news outlet informed them of reams of public records documenting her financial fraud and unpaid taxes. “This is obviously shocking and distressing and sad news for us and the program,” said Eden Dabbs, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which oversees the fund. “We are going to have to take responsibility for the decision. We’ll absolutely be looking at this in terms of process and use it as a painful lesson not to let this ever happen again.” People make mistakes and it has been over 25 years since the 1991 incident. I had hoped that this part of my life was behind me,” Woodley said. “I have worked very hard over the past years to be a good person and I think that I am highly regarded in many circles in the industry.”

City officials said Friday they plan to delay the execution of the $12M agreement with Diversifying Energy, the fund’s largest grant recipient to date, and will look into taking additional steps in the program’s review process.