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Monday, August 29, 2011

State says Portland schools broke law in bond measure campaign

Back in April, we questioned whether the Portland public school district was campaigning on the public dime for the school tax bond measure, which ultimately failed. Today we learn that the Oregon Secretary of State has found that school board employees did indeed violate state law by engaging in such campaigning.

A reader who filed a complaint in the matter has sent us copies of 11 notices he says he has received from the Secretary of State, each of which finds that a school district employee violated state law by engaging in improper advocacy for the bond measure. The 11 employees range from Superintendent Carole Smith all the way down to three lowly clerical types.

But get this: For the eight top honchos, the proposed fine is $75 each, and for the three clerical types, the proposed fine is zero.

Here's a list of the accused:

Carole Smith - Superintendent - proposed $75 fine
Sarah Carlin Ames - CIPA Public Affairs Director - proposed $75 fine
Jollee Patterson - General Counsel - proposed $75 fine
CJ Sylvester - Chief Operating Officer - proposed $75 fine
Sarah Schoening - Director of the Office of School Modernization - proposed $75 fine
Matt Shelby - CIPA Public Information Officer - proposed $75 fine
Katie Essick - CIPA Family Communications Manager - proposed $75 fine
Robb Cowie - CIPA Executive Director - proposed $75 fine
Brian Christopher - clerical position - no fine
Richard Martin - clerical position - no fine
Francisco Garcia - clerical position - no fine

We'll post the notices if we can a little later today.

UPDATE, 3:31 p.m.: The notices are here.

Comments (22)

There appears to be no bottom of the barrel when it comes to political corruption in Oregon.

"The initiative is one of Oregon's most important democratic tools," [Secretary of State] Brown said in a statement. "Anyone who abuses the system will be prosecuted."

"I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to elections fraud," [Attorney General] Kroger added.

Do not underestimate the significance of the 75 dollar fines because the facts they are dependent upon can be construed as a final determination.

Such facts can be used for a case invoking ORS 294.100, which includes in part: " * * * civilly liable for the return of the money by suit of the district attorney of the district * * *"

That's funny. Mike Schrunk -- sue somebody in power?

Not defending Sizemore, but isn't election fraud and it's consequences near the level of his crime?

There is a private right of action too. Bring it in circuit court, not tax court.

This points out the silliness of the whole process. These folks undoubtedly knew, or at least strongly suspected, that they were violating the law when they did it (we all knew didn't we?). The timing of the procedure and the possible penalties were completely ineffective in preventing the unlawful conduct. These public servants could, and likely did, knowingly violate the law for the purpose of promoting the measure, and suffer virtually no consequences afterward. This happens with disturbing regularity. Time for the law to change.

What a mess. And it would be even worse if the thing passed.

If they broke the law, why not fire them?

Ouch ... that's gotta hurt!

Re: "These public servants could, and likely did, knowingly violate the law for the purpose of promoting the measure, and suffer virtually no consequences afterward."

Elizabeth, could it be that the PPS 11 were creating a civics lesson for the children entrusted to them for an education?

Could they argue that their act of civil disobedience was for the higher cause of the children?

But what kind of civics lesson is it when the consequences of violating a primary law of OR's democracy are so risibly negligible?

And will they -- if retained in their positions of trust -- ever get around to teaching this particular lesson?

"Do not underestimate the significance of the 75 dollar fines"

Yeah, that's lunch for Don Mazziotti alone.

Whatta joke. Why even bother trying to slow these people down?

And lawyers who know me personally wonder why I have such a disdain for the criminal justice system in this land. This is just another perfect example of how justice is not equally administered and is in fact a joke if you have enough money or the right connections. Bah!

Will Carla Corbin wash up on the beach or transfer to golden parachute land?

Wow. That is some slap on the wrist.

"So what you're telling me is if I pay $75, I can campaign for the next ballot measure as much as I want?"

It'll be interesting to see if the Oregon State Bar looks into whether Jollee Patterson violated any Oregon Rule of Professional Responsibility.

Might I suggest people gather at the next school board meeting and request (demand) resignations ?

Not defending Sizemore, but isn't election fraud and it's consequences near the level of his crime?

Hardly. Sizemore is also a Republican.

I would bet that there isn't a republican on that list.


What is "CIPA"?

I saw it in the findings and proposed orders and in the name list, but as far as I can tell, I never did see an explanation of what the initials / acronym "CIPA" stand for in real people speak.

Anybody here know the answer?

Thank you.

Nonny - Google is our friend..... using Sarah Ames and CIPA, I got your answer....


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As Frank Zappa said, "America is a nation of laws, badly written and randomly enforced."

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