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Diana Karthauser pleads guilty to misdemeanor misconduct; federal lawsuit against Columbia 9-1-1 ongoing

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District has been an agency in turmoil for years.The former Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District employee has entered a plea deal in a case alleging forgery and tampering with public records.

Diana Karthauser, a Clatskanie resident who worked for the 9-1-1 district for roughly 18 years, pleaded guilty to one count of official misconduct in the second degree.

Karthauser had been indicted on six counts of felony forgery, six counts of misdemeanor tampering with public records, and two counts of misconduct in the second degree, also a misdemeanor.

Karthauser pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in the second degree.

In Karthauser's plea petition, she stated that she was entering the guilty plea because in January or February 2018, she "scheduled a ridealong for an employee and assumed that she had completed that ridealong as scheduled. Not hearing otherwise, I submitted a document stating that the employee had met the requirements for the ridealong, without verifying that she had in fact gone on the ridealong."

The plea agreement reached with the Columbia County District Attorney's Office is a far cry from the original indictment, which alleged repeated and intentional false entries into employee records. The indictment claimed Karthauser falsely recorded required training hours for employees, including 9-1-1 dispatchers.

In January, Karthauser had filed a federal harassment lawsuit against the 9-1-1 district, alleging the district's new executive director, Mike Fletcher, retaliated against her for her involvement in a sexual harassment investigation into the district's former executive director, Steve Watson.

Karthauser claimed in the lawsuit that she was fired in July 2018 because she had participated in a 2017 sexual harassment investigation, which had led to Watson's resignation.

That case is ongoing.

The criminal indictment was filed in April of this year, although it was signed by the grand jury's lead juror nearly a year prior, in June 2019.

In June 2020, Karthauser's attorney, Noah Horst, filed a motion to dismiss the case because of the delay between the alleged crimes and the filing. Under Oregon law, prosecutions for most misdemeanors "must be commenced" within two years after the crime. The charges against Karthauser referred to crimes allegedly committed between November 2017 and May 2018. Although the indictment was signed in June 2019, it was not filed until April 2020, more than two years after most of the alleged crimes.

Columbia County District Attorney Jeff Auxier said his office was negotiating with Karthauser's attorneys before the indictment was filed, so everyone was well aware of the charges before April 2020.

The court never reviewed the motion to dismiss, because Karthauser entered the plea deal soon after.

"We were prepared to litigate the motion to dismiss, and we were fairly confident we would prevail," Auxier said.

"The primary goal of this prosecution, for me, was to have (Karthauser) accept responsibility for her misconduct and relinquish her certification with the department of public safety certifications and training," Auxier said.

Under the plea agreement, Auxier agreed to dismiss the case if Karthauser completes community service, donates to a nonprofit, and gives up her Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training certifications.

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