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‘Parachute’ flap Smith decries VanOrman ‘distortions’ in House race

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

October 25, 2006

Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, said it is unfortunate that her Democratic opponent is “distorting” her voting record for political gain.

Smith said after hearing Suzanne VanOrman’s new “hit piece” on the radio and reading a similar negative mailing, “it is time to set the record straight.”

“I always stay positive and I will continue to stay positive. I am just sorry that this issue has come up — it’s simply a case of not checking the facts,” said Smith, who is seeking her third term in the District 52 seat.

At issue is her vote last year against Senate Bill 766 being brought to the House floor without an opportunity for public comment. The legislation, also known as the Golden Parachute Bill, sought to limit the amount of salary and benefits that school districts, education service districts or public charter schools could pay an administrator at the end of a contract.

Smith joined 32 representatives opposed to moving the bill out of the House Education Committee without following the proper procedure. Twenty-five of her peers wanted to vote on the bill anyway since the 2005-07 session was set to end in three days.

These individuals were ranked as “right” on a scorecard by Stand for Children, a grassroots group that favors the Democratic stance on educational issues. Smith and other dissenters, virtually all Republican, were given a “wrong” mark for their vote.

VanOrman reviewed the SC scorecard and then asserted that Smith “sided with fired administrators who want schools to pay extravagant buyouts.” She also contends that “Smith joined with her party’s Portland leadership to kill this common-sense bill.”

Smith said that statement is troubling on several levels. She said it is worrisome that anyone vying for an elected office would favor circumventing the right of citizens to have a voice in policy decisions.

In addition, Smith was not a member of the Education Committee so said she was not privy to the reasons behind SB766’s lack of movement.

“This bill sat in the committee for four months and then, three days before we were to adjourn, a motion was made to withdraw it and bring it directly to the House floor. I don’t think it is ‘killing’ a bill to require that it follow the proper protocol for passage,” she said.

Smith said it was not prudent for VanOrman to rely on the SC report — the opinion of a special interest group — as the basis for her accusations.

“Many times these groups want something done very badly so they lose perspective about the need to get things done in a way that is fair and equitable to all citizens,” she said.

Smith is also confused about who VanOrman is referring to as the party’s “Portland leadership” that she is supposed to have sided with. She said all of the representatives from the urban center are Democrats.

“How do we become bi-partisan in Salem if people use partisanship negatively to gain ground in an election?” asked Smith.

She said perhaps the biggest irony is that SC recently contributed $100 to her campaign. And, while they could not give Smith a formal endorsement, they said the money was “an affirmation of your pragmatic approach to solving problems facing our children and underscores our desire to collaborate closely in the coming months and years.”

“I’m truly here to represent the long-term best interests of the people and I take that very seriously. I have to look at the bigger picture on these issues and I don’t mind people questioning me about what I’ve done — just don’t beat me up for what I didn’t do,” said Smith.

Jim Greenleaf, campaign manager for VanOrman, said SB766 was approved by the Senate and was stalled in the House until a “courageous” group of Democrats called for it to be pulled out on the floor for debate. He said Smith then sided with her party and voted no to prevent Democrats from getting credit for ending golden parachutes in an election year.

Although VanOrman could not be reached for comment, she issued the following written statement:

“I’m not in favor of golden parachutes, big buyouts, for fired administrators at a time when we are trying to get more money in the classroom. As someone who has run a successful preschool program for over 20 years on a tight budget, I find it outrageous that school districts are being forced to offer big payouts when an administrator fails. It was good public policy that passed the Senate but was defeated by House Republicans in a party line vote. I’ll put good public policy and saving taxpayer dollars ahead of party line.”

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