Embattled District Attorney Patrick Flaherty got more bad news this week in the form of a formal criminal investigation into allegations that he abused the grand jury process and wrongfully terminated a long-time investigator in his office.
Flaherty announced via press release on Monday evening that Oregon State Police are investigating his office at the behest of Attorney General John Kroger. According to Flaherty, OSP is looking into the grand jury proceeding that Flaherty called last year during a dispute with county attorney Mark Pilliod whom Flaherty had accused of leaking sensitive material to the media. The matter was eventually settled when Pilliod agreed to issue a statement of apology.
The issue was one of several flashpoints between Flaherty and Deschutes County brass who have fought Flaherty's attempts to assert more independent control of the district attorney's office. The issue came to a head early in Flaherty's tenure when employees in his office sought the county's help in forming a union after Flaherty made known his intention to dismiss nearly half a dozen of Dugan's former staffers.
Flaherty ultimately followed through on the firings over the county's objections. Several of those former employees have since filed a lawsuit.
Flaherty's fallout with Pilliod came on the heels of the tense labor issues. According to previously published reports, Pilliod drew Flaherty's ire after he released a series of job applications in response to a public information request from The Bulletin. Flaherty argued that the release amounted to a crime and called a grand jury to investigate. To others, including Pilliod, who has filed a tort claim against Flaherty, the episode looked more like an effort to settle a score and the Oregon State Bar has since opened its own investigation. The bar has not yet announced the findings of its investigation.
Flaherty has denied any wrongdoing and said in Monday's press release that he intended to cooperate fully with the state investigation. Flaherty said if the investigation were conducted in an "unbiased and fair manner," OSP would find that "no criminal conduct whatsoever would be found to have occurred within the office in either of these instances."
Flaherty was not immediately available for additional comment.
OSP Lieutenant Gregg Hastings said he couldn't comment on the nature of the investigation, but confirmed that OSP was looking into Flaherty's office.
Hastings said he didn't know how long it would take state police to conduct the matter, but said the agency would take as long as it needed to conduct a thorough investigation.
"It won't take days or a week, I'm sure. It will take some time," Hastings said.
Kroger, who has announced that he will not run for re-election, previously investigated former Umatilla prosecutor Dean Gushwa, who resigned after pleading to a misdemeanor charge that he inappropriately claimed a $6 discount on a hotel room for a non-business purpose. Gushwa had faced more serious charges of sexual assault and harassment involving several employees within his office, however no formal charges were ever filed.