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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Portland school officials lawyering up in election abuse case

According to the Trib, the Portland school district has enlisted the Miller Nash law firm in connection with the Oregon Secretary of State's assertion of election law violations by 11 of the district's employees:

District leaders are consulting with attorneys at the Miller Nash firm, its external legal counsel, about their legal options, Shelby says. PPS has 20 days to request a hearing.

"We’re leaning that way," district spokesman Matt Shelby, one of the five staff members slapped with a violation and $75 fine, told the Tribune on Tuesday. "We’re disappointed in the finding because we made quite an effort to run things past our internal counsel and external counsel – and at times the secretary of state – to make sure we were operating within guidelines."

The taxpayers apparently paid for two sets of lawyers before the 11 employees committed the apparent violations, and now they'll pay for two sets of lawyers to defend them? Doesn't sound right. Not surprising, but not right. The backers of the school tax bond measure in question had a bajillion dollars to spend to push the measure; maybe they should pungle up for the attorneys on this one.

Comments (15)

Who's going to pay the legal fees for their $325 in fines? Taxpayers? Isn't that about what the firm's lawyers charge per hour?

Why don't they just pass around a hat at one of their "brainstorming" sessions? A dollar per District clipboard holder would probably do it.

There is some good weasely language from the PPS guy at the end of the article.

I received at least two mailers from PPS that anyone with half a brain could tell were advocating for the measure. But now we get to hear PPS cry "who coulda known?"

Just disgusting! No money for "the children" but lots of tax dollars for legal defense?
What a load of B/S!

So-called "progressives" can assail "Tea Partiy folks" all they want, but this is just the kind of bulls**t the TP's are talking about . . . I think.

It is not the PPS that faces a proposed fine, but a set of individuals personally.

I would suggest that Matt Shelby review ORS 162.415(b).

This Theater could, in the next Act or two, see some individuals prohibited from holding positions of public trust, elected or otherwise.

Matt Shelby needs to redirect inquiries on the matter to the individuals personally on their own time. They will get to cover the legal fees too.

Is Matt Shelby a lawyer, for the group? If he was we could then ask him to name his client.

Correction: See ORS 162.415(1)(b).

The PPS School Board members are the elected folks that should be drilled by the news folks for their opinion regarding the position of the PPS itself on the matter.

"The backers of the school tax bond measure in question had a bajillion dollars to spend to push the measure; maybe they should pungle up for the attorneys on this one."

But it is for the kids!! The kids are our future!!

Are there any other parts of ORS that puts the burden of legal costs on each individual so far implicated and not the taxpayers? Or are there legal cases that helps assign the cost to the parties?

The lawyers always make out like bandits when we have these faux controversies.

The OBA should send flowers to the Secretary of State. This is better than the full employment act.

Meanwhile, Marysville School sits abandoned, neglected, and forgotten.

See State v. Florea, 296 Or 500, 503-504 (1984)

From the court opinion:

Defendant's main attack is on the phrase "official duties." The phrase is not further defined in the criminal code. Defendant argues that because the statute applies to a great variety of public servants whose duties are not fixed by any law, written job description, or other document, judges and juries will not be able to refer to any fixed standard, and potential defendants themselves cannot clearly determine just what their "official duties" are. We doubt that the reference to "official duties" poses a genuine problem. If there is a problem, it is in determining what is "unauthorized."

The demand for payment of the proposed 75 dollar fines are personal. This is enough, for ORS 162.415(1)(b).

A local government like a city can criminalize some conduct but cannot conflict with state law. A city cannot make lawful that which the state declares unlawful. Here, could the PPS pay the 75 dollar personal fines? I don't think they can. If PPS cannot pay them then how could anyone reasonably conclude that the PPS is authorized to pay far more in legal fees to defend against the payment of these tiny personal fines?

ORS 260.432 expressly does not "restrict the right of a public employee to express personal political views." That is, there is clear recognition of an individual right versus that of the PPS.

If I wanted to affect a change or clarification of ORS 260.432 via a court challenge could I ask the PPS to pay for my legal representation? No I could not. Does the status of being a "public employee," as part of their employment agreement, inherently include such representation to affect a policy change to allow local government (that is, public employees) greater leeway to influence elections? It is prohibited.

Suppose PPS put a bond measure on the ballot regarding issuance of pension obligation bonds, how much flexibility would you give to public employees to frame the issue via official PPS statements? The payment of the 75 fine, or defense of the same, is no less a matter involving their own self interest.

If Florea had to cover the cost for his own defense then so should the list of parties subject to the proposed fines.

Payment of legal services by the PPS for personal defense is unauthorized.

The biggest problem for the PPS Eleven is that the district supposedly sent some materials for review. The SoS said that there were some problems that should be fixed. Some of those problems were not fixed.

The easiest solution was for PPS to say, "OK, we'll fix it, easy peasy."

Instead, PPS said, "F-U, Elections Division, I've got a doctorate in PR."

As a matter of policy the school district should not be mailing any ballot measure education materials to voters. The temptation to break the law is too great. They probably spent tens of thousands of dollars attempting to walk up to the line (breaking the spirit of the law) - and they even failed at that.

Heads should roll.

Don't be so hard on PPS for missing this one. They are not supposed to know how the real world works, for crying out loud. They are only tasked with teaching our children.....

Meanwhile, Marysville School sits abandoned, neglected, and forgotten.

Don't worry, maybe McMenamins will buy it for another hipster hotel.

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