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State launches elections investigation into Hales' office

The Oregon Secretary of State's Office has initiated an investigation into Mayor Charlie Hales' office over a press release it issued attacking the supports of the Portland Public Water District measure on the May 20 Primary Election ballot.

The release was emailed to the press by Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes on Feb. 11. It included statements from both Hales and Commissioner Nick Fish questioning the motives of the supporters. The co-petitioners of the initiative petition that placed the measure on the ballot filed a elections complaint with the Secretary of State's office three days later.

In a Feb. 19 email letter to Haynes, elections Compliance Specialist Alana Cox asks a number of question about how the release was written and authorized for distribution. Among other things, Cox asks whether Haynes and another other office employees prepared it on official time, how they obtained one of the quotes from Hales, and who directed its preparation.

"Portland's embattled Mayor has developed a pattern of abusing his office, from covering up an attempt to illegally divert water and sewer funds to retaliating against the whistleblower, to now using public resource for political purposes, and it's encouraging to see someone in authority finally saying 'enough,'" co-petitioner Kent Craford said in a press release that included Cox's letter.

Haynes issued the following statement in response:

"We did a press release from Mayor Hales and Commissioner Fish regarding a summary judgment hearing by Judge Bushong. The issue is the water law suit.

"Our city attorneys vetted the press release.

"The press release proposes that neither the facts, nor the law, are on the side of the law suit plaintiffs.

"They responded by complaining about the manner in which the press release was distributed.

"I am no lawyer and offer no comment on the legal validity of the claim. I offer no comment on their defense of the law and the facts in their case, since they offered no such defense."

Haynes was previously investigated for violating elections law when he was a spokesman for Portland Community College. At that time, the Oregon Secretary of State's Office found he advocated for a PCC ballot measure on public time and fined him $75.