The father of a former Portlander suspected of embezzling $1.3 million in community funds from a San Francisco government agency said his son has had some emotional difficulties of late and that the actions he is accused of are "totally out of character."
Clarke Howatt, who grew up in Northeast Portland and graduated from Madison High School in 1977, was the longtime director of the Association of Bay Area Governments. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the association accuses him of setting up a dummy entity that drew $1.3 million from a community fund intended for neighborhood improvements.
According to the Chronicle, the association discovered the missing funds during a December audit. The Chronicle said he used the money to buy a $1.53 million luxury home in Pacific City, on the Oregon coast.
ABAG's Deputy Executive Director Brad Paul told The Chronicle that Howatt resigned Friday in an e-mail and told the group he would pay the money back if he could. The San Francisco City Attorney has referred the matter to an unidentified law enforcement agency, possibly the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as wire fraud may be involved.
The San Francisco Business Times reported Tuesday that Howatt's lawyer, Mary McNamara, had contact the organization and said her client will cooperate with law enforcement.
During a phone interview Tuesday with The Oregonian/OregonLive, Howatt's father, Les Howatt of Gresham, said his son had a long and reputable history as a finance expert with the intergovernmental organization and was a model citizen.
"The whole thing makes no sense, but it happened, and no amount of magic can erase it," he said. Howatt declined to elaborate on his son's emotional difficulties or say where he was, but he insisted his son was not a fugitive. The elder Howatt said he hopes to see him in a few days.
"We're devastated. He's devastated. He's not even capable of commenting at this point."
The Chronicle reported Howatt earned $149,294 in salary and had a total compensation package including benefits of $233,375. It said he was an art collector, ballet aficionado and owner of multiple properties.
According to public records, the Pacific City home was purchased in August for $1.53 million in cash. It was listed for sale three days ago for $1.64 million. The Multiple Listing Service named the owner as Marshall and Taylor Holdings LLC. The California address listed by the LLC in Tillamook County tax records, however, corresponds with an Oakland address listed for Howatt in public records.
In addition to the 5,100-square-foot home in Pacific City, The Chronicle reported Howatt owns properties in Maui, Hawaii, and keeps a yacht at the Columbia River Yacht Club in Portland valued at $45,000.
His father said he owned the Maui condo, not his son. He said the Chronicle was apparently confusing properties owned by himself and his brother, Clarke Howatt of Los Angeles, with those owned by his son. He said his son owned an aluminum fishing boat and "a dilapidated boat house" at the Columbia River Yacht Club.
Asked about how his son amassed the art collection reported by the Chronicle, Les Howatt said he was unaware of it. "He's a pretty private person. If these things exist, they were very recent."
EDITOR"S NOTE: Notice that Clarke Howatt like most highly paid advocates of Smart Growth uses his ill gotten gains to buy a SINGLE FAMILY HOME. With five bedrooms, five baths and a ten person hot tub the luxury residence must be a total energy hog. Notice a bit of hypocrisy? Plan Bay Area wants the population to move to high density apartments and leave the countryside to the wealthy. It is more "energy efficient" that way.