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Local officials in Oregon slapped with fines for violating election laws

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January 21, 2011

By Kyle Maichle

SALEM, Oregon: Two officials in the City of West Linn were fined after they distributed a newsletter carrying information on a ballot measure. City Manager Chris Jordan and Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt were fined by the Oregon Secretary of State after an investigation found that they violated laws barring public employees from campaigning for or against measures on work time.[1]

Former Mayor David Dodds filed a complaint after the West Linn Update issued an advertisement influencing citizens to vote for a measure that would charge water rates in relation to a customer's usage on the November 2, 2010 ballot. The complaint alleged that the advertisement included in utility bills was political advocacy citing dialogue used between silhouettes of a man and woman. Also, the dialogue used the terms "fundamentally flawed" and "that's unfair."The former Mayor argued that government bodies can only give information on measures submitted to the public in neutral, nonprejudicial language.[1]

Jordan was fined $175 for his part in writing the newsletter while Wyatt was fined $75 for writing and distributing the newsletter. Both Jordan and Wyatt will pay the fines, but expressed disagreement with the investigation's findings. Chris Jordan said that the material in the ad was purely educational. Carla Corbin, a compliance specialist for the Secretary of State, said that information that is factual may not be impartial according to their compliance manual. Corbin advised all local governments to run through elections materials with the Secretary of State to ensure compliance with the law.[1]

The measure was required to go on the ballot because the city charter mandates that water rate increases over five percent need to be approved by the voters. The measure was defeated by the voters.[1]

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