Complaint says he either can't be mayor, or owes back taxes

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Mayor Charlie Hales won the election last fall but still faces complaints about voting in Oregon while paying taxes in Washington. Pacific Green Party activist Seth Woolley wants a Marion County judge to determine if Charlie Hales is legally qualified to be Portland mayor.

Woolley filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court this week, asking a judge to rule on Hales’ legal residency status when the mayor was filing taxes as a Washington resident from 2004 to 2009 but voting in Oregon.

Woolley, acting as his own lawyer, contends that Hales unlawfully voted in Oregon from 2004 to 2009 and made false statements when he last registered to vote here in 2008.

If a judge determines that Hales was a Washington resident and his voter registration was improper, he’d have to vacate his position as mayor, Woolley argues. “If he’s an Oregon resident, he owes $100,000, approximately, for back taxes.”

Willamette Week first reported that Hales was voting in Oregon while filing taxes in Washington, which levies no income taxes. The controversy got considerable attention in the mayor’s race last year but Hales prevailed anyway.

Woolley lost a similar claim before the Oregon Elections Division, and is essentially appealing that decision in circuit court.

Hales, who declined to comment on the lawsuit, has said he maintained a condo on Hayden Island in Portland and lived there some of the time as well.

Woolley, a software engineer from Northeast Portland, ran on the Pacific Green Party ticket for secretary of state last year and lost to Democrat Kate Brown, who oversees the Elections Division.

Woolley said he’ll take the case all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court if necessary.

“It seems like he’s kind of above the law,” Woolley said of Hales voting in one state while paying taxes in another. “If he’s able to essentially get away with this, young people will get more cynical about the process.”