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LUDLOWTempers flared last week during discussions of whether or not Clackamas County should reimburse commissioners John Ludlow and Tootie Smith for legal fees.

Commissioners reached an agreement Tuesday, Aug. 19, to pay $5,000 each to commissioners John Ludlow and Tootie Smith to help cover a combined $22,953 in attorney costs from an April investigation into a county employee’s complaint that the pair created a hostile workplace.

SMITH“I’ll tell you that my heart’s beating like 50 miles per hour,” Commissioner Jim Bernard said during an electric morning discussion that spilled into a later afternoon session.

Smith was absent during the intervening board meetings that day. She later revealed this was because she was talking with her lawyer about how to recover the remaining legal fees from commissioners Bernard, Paul Savas and Martha Schrader personally.

Ludlow reported incurring a total of $7,846 from two different law firms in his defense during an investigation into an April 22 complaint by former county employee Jared Anderson.

Anderson left the county June 2 after a firestorm involving allegations that Ludlow and Smith created a hostile work environment, discriminated against him on the basis of age, sexuality and violated his right to privacy “Complaint against Ludlow and Smith investigated,” June 16.

For legal fees during the same investigation, Smith is requesting $15,107.

Commissioners Bernard, Savas and Schrader initially appeared to be willing to let the matter die on technical grounds, often remaining silent when asked to put forward a motion or a second.

“This is totally political, ladies and gentlemen,” Ludlow said, warning his fellow commissioners that refusing to reimburse any of the costs would have ramifications in “everything.”

County Administrator Don Krupp said he recommended the commissioners approve the requests because the investigation into Anderson’s complaint found that although insensitive or inappropriate comments were probably made, they did not rise to the level of breaking the law.

“If the independent investigator had arrived a different conclusion ... I would not be making this recommendation,” Krupp said.

County Counsel Stephen Madkour defended Ludlow’s and Smith’s delay in submitting the requests after the case instead of before, stating that the nature of the complaint required swift action.

Savas — who said he was reimbursed $5,300 for two separate instances in 2012 regarding the Trolley Trail — said he was surprised that the request was coming more than three months after the initial retention of counsel with no prior request.

“I think there was ample time to come forward with the ask,” Savas said. “Otherwise it becomes a blank check with no parameters and that concerns me.”

His motion to approve $1,500 died without a second.

“You can’t even burp at a lawyer for $1,500,” Smith said.

Bernard’s first motion to approve $5,000 died without a second, but it was later approved 3-1 for each Ludlow and Smith, with Savas voting no each time. Bernard was reimbursed $5,000 during an ethics commission complaint in 2012.

Commissioner Martha Schrader was tight-lipped about her views until an afternoon discussion during which she stated a desire to reimburse part of the legal fees, even though she said she would be spending a lot of political capital to do so.

“I will tell you that I will get a tremendous amount of backlash on this,” Schrader said.

“So it is political,” Ludlow said.

“John,” Schrader responded, “everything we do is political. That’s why we’re elected officials.”

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