Deschutes District Attorney Patrick Flaherty can sleep a little more soundly now that an criminal investigation into allegations that Flaherty misused a grand jury process to settle a political score has found no wrongdoing on his part.
Flaherty made it clear that the Oregon State Police investigation, undertaken to determine whether or not he was guilty of Official Misconduct, was a huge waste of time and taxpayer money.
The investigation was overseen by Attorney General John Kroger and grew out of a public records dispute involving Deschutes County Counsel Mark Pilliod, whom Flaherty suspected of intentionally releasing confidential personnel information. Pilliod released the records in question to a Bulletin news reporter in response to a records request. He later publicly apologized for providing the records, but not before Flaherty called a grand jury to investigate the breach of protocol.
Flaherty dismissed the grand jury before an indictment was handed down, but the dispute simmered. Pilliod has explored the option of suing Flaherty over the episode and the Oregon State Bar has an ongoing ethics investigation into Flaherty's handling of the issue. In November, Kroger's office opened its criminal investigation.
Washington County D.A. Bob Hermann, who reviewed the OSP investigation on behalf of Kroger's office, found no evidence that Flaherty was motivated by politics when he convened the grand jury last year.
"Mr. Pillliod's release of the exempt information was an unauthorized exercise of his official duties as Deschutes County Counsel...The fact that the released records contain the applications of employees who were appointed to replace dismissed employees over Mr. Pilliod's objection could lead a reasonable person to conclude that Mr. Pilliod had the intent to harm either the new employees or Mr. Flaherty," wrote Robert Bletko, Hermann's chief deputy district attorney.
Flaherty made clear that the letter served to exonerate him of the charges that have dogged him since last year.
“The grand jury investigation of county counsel was reasonable, lawful and justified by the evidence,” Flaherty said in a press conference today.
Flaherty acknowledged the toll these investigations have taken on his regular duties as Deschutes District Attorney and asked the public to hold to the county accountable.
“When county public servants are not properly supervised and allowed to abuse their position, the public should hold the county responsible. I leave it to county administration to address the issues identified by the investigation,” Flaherty said.
While Flaherty said that he has no professional relationship with Pilliod, he was more clear about the impact the proceedings have had on his relationship with the county.
“It’s had a negative effect on our relationship,” Flaherty said.
When we spoke to Pilliod by phone, moments before the press conference, he was unaware of Herman's decision.
While the decision is a milestone in the embattled Deschutes D.A.'s tenure, other issues remain including several workplace complaints filed by his staff with the Bureau of Labor and Industries and the Oregon State Bar investigation. Flaherty said he expects to be “resolved quickly,”
The question on our minds now is: will the favorable news temper the Bulletin’s anti-Flaherty campaign? We're not holding our breath.