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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pritchard pulls off pre-draft mega-deal

Williams for Johnson, Leonard for Nesbitt
Critics say trades don't address state's core ethical weakness, culture of corruption

Last year, assistant General Manager Kevin Pritchard's draft-day deal-making wizardry earned the Portland Trail Blazers the cream of the 2006 crop: the NBA Rookie of the Year combo guard Brandon Roy and the versatile big LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as the Spanish point guard pheenom Sergio "Chacho" Rodriguez. This year, with the Blazers holding the #1 pick in the June 28 draft - likely the highly-coveted Ohio State freshman center Greg Oden - Kevin Pritchard, now the General Manager, is angling for a second 1st round pick, maybe even the Atlanta Hawks' #3, to complete the current phase of the rebuilding project.

But the peripatetic Pritchard, whose cell phone is literally wearing out, was not too busy to answer a desperate call for help from former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D). The result: Pritchard helped the longtime union lawyer engineer a pre-draft blockbuster involving all three branches of state government, the powerful government unions, and the City of Portland that will likely go down as the biggest deal in the history of Oregon state politics.

Corrections Department Director Max Williams for State Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose)

Sen. Johnson, an aviation and land-use expert, resigned from the Senate and, as predicted by political insiders, is headed to Corrections. Johnson accepted an appointment to run the huge Department, replacing former GOP Rep. Williams, who moved to a log cabin in Scappoose and changed party registration to Democrat late last year. Williams has accepted an appointment to fill the remaining three years of Johnson's term in the state Senate.

Portland City Commissar Randy Leonard for Acting Governor Tim Nesbitt

Out of the Executive branch goes former AFL-CIO boss and acting Gov. Nesbitt, who moves over to become Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, replacing the retiring Justice Wallace "Rasheed" Carson. Into the Governor's office comes the former Firefighter's Union boss, Commissar Leonard. He assumes the title of acting Governor for the three years remaining in the term and will sign the raft of end-of-session bills.

According to a Blazers insider, a last-minute snag almost foiled the complex deal. But under an emergency rule negotiated by Pritchard and passed by the Portland City Council, enacted by the state Legislature, signed by the acting Governor, and approved by the state Supreme Court, Leonard will be able to serve simultaneously in the new role of acting Governor and as Portland City Commissar for at least the remainder of that term, and possibly longer, depending upon certain undisclosed performance incentives that received SEIU Local 503 approval.

At a Salem press conference announcing the mega-deal, Blazers owner Paul Allen said he was pleased to lend Pritchard to the state, even amidst the usual end-of-session tension and the mounting pre-draft buzz surrounding the Blazers that is bordering on hysteria. Allen praised his new General Manager, noting "KP has a knack for helping you decide what you want, and then going out and getting it."

The Oregonian, June 14 by JASON QUICK

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