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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A twist, but Hare’s case goes on

Written September 19th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
City Manager Wes Hare, right, at a council work session in February.

City Manager Wes Hare, right, at a council work session in February.

There’s been an unusual twist in the complaint against Albany City Manager Wes Hare over his alleged electioneering: A private citizen paid Hare’s $75 civil penalty or fine.

From the standpoint of common sense, the allegation is baloney even though an administrative law judge for the state Elections Division has upheld it. And the latest episode shows again that this case is about a principle and NOT about the money.

The Elections Division of the Oregon secretary of state asserts that Hare violated elections law by reminding the public in a press release last fall that voting was under way, and would soon end, on a $20.3 million bond issue for a new police department and downtown fire station. The problem was that his statement did not reiterate the estimated tax rate needed to pay off the bonds, as required by a state manual on how non-elected public employees can avoid violating the law against campaigning on the public’s dime.

The  manual goes beyond the state law, which merely and sensibly says officials must avoid using public resources to advocate for or against anything on the ballot.

Hare is fighting the case and has not paid the $75 penalty. But Albany resident Karl Bridenbeck, who lives on Fir Oaks Place S.W., attempted to pay it by sending the state a check for that amount. (I could not reach him late Friday on why he had done that.)

On Thursday, though, Alana Cox of the Elections Division sent Bridenbeck this response: “We contacted Mr. Hare’s attorney, and he requested that we return the check to you.” The letter to Bridenbeck doesn’t say whether his check was included in the envelope, but presumably it was.

Meanwhile, on the legal front, City Attorney Jim Delapoer, directed by the city council to contest the dubious charge, is seeking judicial review. Delapoer is handling the legal work at his own expense, but on Sept. 10 the council agreed to pay the $373 filing fee to get the case into court.

The council is pursuing the case because, on behalf of citizens and local governments everywhere in Oregon, it wants to make this point: If public employees can be fined for making, in good faith, neutral statements of fact about election issues, the public is deprived of a crucial source of information. Besides that, whatever happened to free speech? (hh)



11 responses to “A twist, but Hare’s case goes on”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I won’t get into an argument with you on the merits of the case. I will just say that both the Secretary of State and an Administrative Law Judge do not agree with you.

    And after reading every word in both decisions, I don’t see how Hare can prevail with the Court of Appeals. Hare violated the law, plain and simple.

    I do take exception with the city paying the filing fee. Hare was fined as an individual. He should pay all of the costs associated with appealing his fine out of his own pocket. He should also comply with Oregon’s ethics law when he receives gifts from sugar daddies like Karl Bridenbeck. Albany taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for Hare’s personal screw ups.

    • Well, as for gifts, it’s not a gift if he didn’t get it, didn’t ask for it, didn’t know about it, didn’t accept it and the item was returned to the sender. (hh)

    • Bob Woods says:

      “I do take exception with the city paying the filing fee. Hare was fined as an individual. ”

      He was fined for his statement as an employee of the city, for a statement issued in his official capacity as City Manager, in a city press release.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        If what you say is true, why didn’t the City of Albany fight the fine? The “respondent” on every legal document identifies Hare as an individual, not the City. It’s comparable to a city employee getting a speeding ticket while driving a city vehicle. The fine is assessed to the person, not the city.

        • The city council IS the one fighting the case. It, the council, is the party that directed the city attorney to contest the violation. Hare did not want to contest it, initially. (hh)

          • Gordon L. Shadle says:

            Read the legal documents. The City of Albany is not mentioned as a party to the actions.

          • That’s not the point. Read the council minutes. (hh)

          • Gordon L. Shadle says:

            It is the point.

            The minutes only reflect the council’s political decision to help Hare fight his fine. The minutes are silent in regards to having the city create legal standing as a party to the fine.

            I still take exception to the council’s political decision to have Albany taxpayers foot the bill for Hare’s filing fee.

  2. Warren Beeson says:

    Not being a citizen of Albany I don’t have a dog in this fight… But one does get a feeling of a perverse sense of poetic justice when any branch of government gets nailed buy some common-sense-lacking, faceless bureaucrat with the rationale that, “I don’t make the laws I just enforce them.” Even when it’s not the law but a bureaucratic regulation. That said, the regulation is surely lacking in common sense and rationale, But that’s often the norm with bureaucracies and bureaucrats. Our founding fathers did not trust government and that’s why they set up a system of checks and balances in our federal system. They knew what they were doing and we need to follow that more often at all levels of government — this being a prime example of why.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      You may be right. In this case, as Mr. Bumble said, the law may be “a ass.”

      But I don’t expect the Court of Appeals to rule on the sensibility of the law.

      They, like the Secy of State and the ALJ, will probably rule on whether Hare committed a violation. And it’s abundantly clear he did.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    Wes Hare is PAID TO KNOW BETTER!

    We all have to deal with laws we feel are stupid, but that’s the way it is.

    I can understand not allowing some other person OR entity not being allowed to pay HIS fine. It simply blurs the line regarding bribery.

 

 
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