A third accusation of election law violations has been filed this week with Secretary of State Bill Bradbury’s office.
On Tuesday, the Citizens for Responsible Waterfront Development charged both Hood River Port Director Dave Harlan and Hood River City Manager Lynn Guenther with using public resources to campaign against Measure 14-16. That ballot initiative seeks to preserve a large section of the port-owned property along the Columbia River for a public park.
CRWD Treasurer Cory Roeseler submitted 10 pages of documentation to the Elections Division on Oct. 28 as evidence for his complaint against Harlan. That paperwork includes references to a waterfront park made by Harlan in several newspaper articles, columns he wrote in the port newsletter and statements posted on the port Web site. Roeseler did not present any evidence against Guenther and stated in writing that he was still gathering that data and would provide it to the state as soon as he could.
Norma Buckno, compliance specialist, said no action will be taken regarding the complaint against Guenther unless it is founded on some type of documentation. She said an inquiry into Harlan’s statements will not be completed by Tuesday’s vote on the park proposal.
“The problem with these issues is that they are not always black and white,” she said. “A public employee is allowed to speak about the facts associated with an issue but there has to be some balance.”
Roeseler said the CRWD complaints are not meant to be personal attacks but simply to hold the two officials — especially Harlan — accountable for the use of public resources.
“The port and specifically Dave Harlan as a paid employee of the port have special access to the public and government agencies are not suppose to use that special access to campaign for or against a measure and that’s really the heart of our complaint,” he said.
However, Harlan said that his discussions about waterfront issues have been related to the current rezoning process and hiring of a developer. He said there had been no direct references made to the pending measure, to CRWD or its specific goals.
“The reason that I have discussed parks and other waterfront land uses is because the city is on the verge of adopting an extremely important waterfront mixed-use zoning ordinance. A key aspect of that ordinance deals with the location and size of waterfront park land. The port has the right as property owner, and as a public body has the duty, to address issues affecting its property, including those related to parks,” Harlan said.
Meanwhile, CRWD is facing a state investigation into its financial reporting practices. On Monday the Results Through Representative Government, opponents of the measure, asked the state to review the CRWD’s “incomplete” contribution and expenditure statement, which was filed one day after the official deadline. RTRG contends that the single listing of $199 as an expenditure is either “erroneous or fraudulent.” The group questions why there is no itemization of other recent paid advertisements posted by CRWD. In addition, RTRG wants an explanation for a cash balance differential from $778 in 1995 to $1,222 in 2003.
RTRG has also filed a challenge against the September edition of the Crystal Springs Water District’s newsletter, “The Water Connection,” that is sent out with monthly bills. The group said the front page bulletin gave “one-sided” support for Measure 14-15, which seeks to give voters the final word on approval of housing applications for 25 or more units within a forest zone.
Buckno said all three complaints will be investigated by the state to determine if there have been election law violations. She said in all cases the involved parties are offered an appeal hearing if they are found guilty.