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Oregon State Bar dismisses complaints lodged against Columbia River PUD attorney

An Oregon State Bar Association investigation into complaints against a Scappoose attorney who represents Columbia River People's Utility District was dismissed earlier this year.

In an Aug. 13 letter, Dawn Evans, disciplinary counsel for the OSB, cited a lack of probable cause to indicate Philip Griffin of Clarke Griffin LLC, violated the state bar association's rules or committed misconduct while acting as the attorney for the PUD.Griffin

The letter was drafted in response to Brady Preheim, a St. Helens resident and Scappoose businessman who filed complaints with the bar association shortly after the 2016 election, alleging Griffin overstepped his authority in his capacity as a PUD attorney when he drafted a press release that was disseminated at a public meeting, which, according to Preheim, implied an illegal meeting was held among PUD directors who conspired not to seat a candidate elected to a seat on the board.

That candidate was Nancy Ward of Scappoose, whose name was included on a ballot, despite her being ineligible to serve on the PUD's board of directors because she lives just outside the district's political boundary. Instead, Debbie Reed, who ran against Ward in the 2016 election, was appointed to the seat after Ward was deemed ineligible by the PUD's legal team, which included Griffin.

Evans' letter states, "Based upon a review of what was submitted, I cannot conclude that there is probable cause to believe that Mr. Griffin violated [Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct]."

Preheim's wasn't the only complaint submitted to the state.

Previous directors Dave Baker and Richard Simpson also submitted complaints, alleging Griffin worked behind the scenes to silence and harass them after making comments critical of PUD circumstances and activities.

Griffin maintains Baker and Simpson broke with a board governance policy, and he was cautioning them not to divulge attorney-client privileged information or create legal liabilities for the PUD.

Baker and Simpson's complaints were also dismissed.

"At Clarke Griffin, LLC, we work very hard to help our clients with their legal matters," Griffin stated via email to the Spotlight. "Being falsely accused of ethics violations is a distraction from the good work we do for our clients. We are pleased this matter is now over."

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