The Columbia County Spotlight is addressing inaccuracies in stories published about the Oregon State Police investigation into coercion allegations made against Tyler Miller, a former Columbia County Sheriff's Office reserve deputy and consultant with Columbia 911 Communications District.
In August 2017 we published a story following the conclusion of the OSP investigation that stated a deputy district attorney from Clackamas County, Bryan Censoni, had found that although Miller had not committed any crimes, Miller was motivated by vindictiveness when he brought sexual harassment allegations against Steve Watson, the former Columbia 911 Communications executive director, to the attention of the Columbia 911 Communications board.
In fact, Censoni never made such a finding. The story published in the Spotlight was the result of an incorrect reading of Censoni's letter.
In the letter, which is available on the Spotlight's website, Censoni references an interview with Watson's wife at the time in which she stated that Miller told her his motivation for informing her of Steve Watson's alleged sexual harassment was "a bit vindictive." Censoni, in his letter of no complaint, concluded that even if that was the case, vindictiveness is not a crime.
Miller has since commissioned attorney Eliot Thompson to investigate the incident, the "vindictive" statement and other allegations made against him. In the Thompson report, Miller denied ever making the "vindictive" statement, and instead described telling Watson's wife that it was Watson who was being vindictive.
Regrettably, the specific nature of the August 2017 error was brought to the Spotlight's attention only recently. As a result, it has been repeated in other Spotlight articles, including an article published last week, "Fired reserve deputy releases report with alternative explanation."
Last week's story also misinterpreted a conclusion from the Thompson report regarding people interviewed in a prior investigation by attorney Akin Blitz into Miller's motivation for reporting Watson's alleged sexual harassment activity. The Thompson report found that Blitz made no effort to speak with anyone other than people who are most likely to be biased against Miller because of their leadership role within Columbia 911 Communications and those who avowedly consider Miller an enemy. Additionally, the federal lawsuit Miller has filed is a civil rights suit.
An article titled "Community support backs growing St. Helens band program" in the Oct. 26 issue incorrectly spelled the name of Joe Sheeley's business, Digital Graphiti, which helped redo the logo on the marching band's equipment trailer.
The Spotlight regrets the errors.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)