In spite of what seems like obvious campaign violations, as of press time, no one has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State Election Division about apparent fouls by incumbent District Attorney Patrick Flaherty—including the person most affected by them, his opponent John Hummel.
"I'm not saying I want him to get away with this," explained Hummel, but added that he does not want to distract his campaign with the time and energy to pursue the allegations. "I'm doing my part to hold him accountable," he added, explaining that his campaign is geared toward unseating what he sees as "a bully."
"If I wasn't running a campaign," he added, "I would file a complaint against him."
"I'm standing up to him," Hummel said. "I hope someone else in the community also will."
But, like tripping an opposing team's player when the referee's back is turned or speeding along the highway, unless someone tickets the violation, it does not amount to anything.
Oregon law is clear that any incumbent running for re-election cannot use publicly funded resources or employees to further a campaign. Yet, last week the Source reported several incidents when District Attorney Patrick Flaherty appears to ignore those plain-spoken instructions—and to violate Oregon law.
In February, when Flaherty refused to take part in a City Club debate, he sent an email to City Club that appears to employ public funds for the sake of his campaign, not only once but twice with 40 words: "I invite you to call my assistant Nichole Brown to schedule a time to meet in person with me at your District Attorney's Office," he wrote. "I would be happy to discuss your proposed 'debate' as well as your choice of moderators."
This is a troubling email: Brown is employed at the DA's office, and clearly Flaherty is inviting City Club representatives to the DA's office to discuss campaign matters; both election law no-no's.
"From what I'm hearing," said Hummel, "this is par for course for him."
Subsequent interactions with Flaherty's campaign showed similar disregard. Emails and phone calls from the Source to Flaherty's campaign contact numbers were invariably returned by Brown—and not the campaign office or a cell phone funded by campaign funds, but apparently from her desk and phone within the DA's office.
"Flaherty's apparent use of at least one member of the DA's office to work on his campaign during business hours violates the law," said Hummel, "(and) is another example of how he wastes taxpayer dollars, and is disrespectful of the employees in his office."
"I do not fault Ms. Brown for her apparent involvement in Mr. Flaherty's campaign: a power imbalance exists between Brown and Flaherty," continued Hummel. "Flaherty is Brown's boss and Flaherty has a history of inappropriately firing employees in the DA's office. Brown and the other employees in the DA's office should be able to come to work and focus on their important roles in keeping Deschutes County safe without being coerced or directed to participate in Flaherty's campaign."
Other candidates confirm that the rules about keeping any public funds or infrastructure separate from campaign efforts are clear-cut. Although Tony DeBone, the incumbent county commissioner, said he did not know the specifics of Flaherty's alleged campaign violations, when asked if the law was straightforward and simple about keeping one's public office separate from any campaign effort—a task that he currently must tow the line on—he plainly stated: "I would agree."
Other minor campaign penalties:
Campaign lawn signs can only be posted with a property owners' permission, and cannot be placed in public spaces. Last week, we reported that someone had posted a Re-Elect Flaherty sign in public space across the street from our offices. Since then, The Source also has noticed Hummel signs popping up in public spaces, including along Hwy 97, near Sunriver, and in various roundabouts in Bend. (Yes, insert comment here about glass houses.)
And a citizen's arrest; from a reader: "Randy Miller's misleading statement in the voter's pamphlet. His entry lists 'Trial Academy, Stanford Law School.' This strongly implies that he went to Stanford Law School when he did not. In fact, the 'Trial Academy' had nothing to do with Stanford Law School; it was a Continuing Legal Education seminar held on the Stanford campus. This is like saying, 'I went to Stanford' when all I did was visit the campus."