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December 24th, 2002 Anne Laufe | News Stories
 

CLEANING UP THE JOINT

     
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Mitchell Erlacher
The former Benson High School janitor charged with intentionally cutting the school's electrical and phone wires had, just days before, been arrested for buying marijuana from a Benson student, WW has learned.

On Dec. 5, the day before the wire-snipping incident, Mitchell Erlacher was fired by Portland Habilitation Center, the company the school district hired in July to replace its higher-paid custodians.

PHC claims Erlacher was fired because he was off-campus during working hours. It turns out that's only half the story. According to a police report, Erlacher, 22, went off-campus to buy a $20 bag of pot from 18-year-old Kelly Wise, a senior at Benson.

According to a Portland police incident report, Erlacher was arrested on Northeast 15th Avenue, between Everett and Glisan streets. The drug deal was arranged on campus by two other students, according to the report, which did not name the pair of juveniles.

The day after his arrest, Erlacher was found on the Benson campus shortly after a major electrical outage. He was arrested again on Dec. 9 and charged with criminal mischief and burglary.

News of Erlacher's drug bust is sure to fire up critics of PHC, who've argued that the contract workers are not properly trained or screened.

"This is what we were concerned about in the very beginning," says Shannon Fair, a parent who has children at both Benson and James John Elementary School, where Erlacher worked before being transferred to Benson in September. "The school board made a big mistake. Our kids are at risk now."

 
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