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Former code enforcement officer won't face criminal charges in two-year coercion investigation

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - The property on Slavens Road in Warren is owned by Robert and Linda Crain and the Jackson Family Trust. , South County Spotlight - News Robert Crain coerced cheap sale of Warren property, plaintiff alleged County settles for $45K in code enforcement lawsuitFormer Columbia County code enforcement officer Robert Crain, along with his wife Linda Wheeler-Crain, will not face criminal charges following a criminal investigation into suspected coercion, theft and misconduct.

Columbia County District Attorney Jeff Auxier told the Spotlight on Tuesday, June 9, that no criminal charges were forthcoming against either Crain or Wheeler-Crain.

The district attorney's office, Columbia County Sheriff's office and Oregon State Police investigated Crain and Wheeler-Crain "after evidence had surfaced indicating possible coercion involving the Code Enforcement and a residence in the County," a 2018 county news release stated.

"We think Mr. Crain exercised very poor professional judgement," Auxier said this month. But a successful prosecution seemed unlikely "when we looked at his actions and applied it to the criminal statutes and what we could prove."

Crain and Wheeler-Crain both worked in the county's Land Development Service Department, with Crain in charge of enforcing land use regulations through warnings and citations, while Wheeler-Crain worked as a permit technician.

In August of 2018, Crain was fired following an internal investigation. The criminal investigation was still proceeding at the time of his dismissal.

Deputies with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office raided the home of Crain and his wife in April 2018, executing a search warrant to seize official and personal records.

Later that year, a Warren resident sued the Crains and Columbia County after Crain allegedly coerced her into selling her home to him at a below-market price. The plaintiff, Angela Alexander, alleged that when Crain came to inspect her home before she began renovations, he threatened her with violations and heavy fines. Crain allegedly told her that she would likely lose the home unless she agreed to sell it to him for $150,000. The county was accused of negligence in allowing Crain's actions.

Columbia County settled with Alexander for $45,000 in November 2019.

The criminal investigation concluded this spring, two years after it began.

"We had no evidence that we felt like would be viable in court to suggest that he was really using his position of power as a code enforcement officer in making this purchase," Auxier said. Auxier said it appeared that the properties purchased by Crain were bought at fair market value.

Robert and Linda Crain did not return requests for comment.

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