An elections complaint against former Albany mayoral candidate Jim Clausen has been dismissed by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, which found insufficient evidence that Clausen committed a felony crime.
The agency will not pursue the matter further.
Clausen was accused by Albany resident Gary Richards of falsifying his Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet statement by exaggerating politically-minded activity as government experience.
The matter was resolved on Nov. 12, more than a week after the November general election in which Clausen lost to incumbent Sharon Konopa.
According to unofficial election results, Konopa won a fourth-term as mayor by a 6,884-4,717 margin.
Clausen said he was frustrated by the complaint process, saying it was too easy for someone to file a politically-motivated allegation and muddy the waters as voters were deciding between candidates.
“All they have to do is go in and say, ‘He lied,’ and it automatically goes into a criminal investigation because of the state statute,” Clausen said.
“I think it was an attempt to color me at that particular time to get people to not vote for me. ... It just feels like dirty politics,” Clausen added.
Clausen wasn’t sure if he would have won the election, but said the complaint cost him votes.
Richards’ complaint letter was received by the Secretary of State’s Office Oct. 21. He wrote that Clausen provided activities in the government experience section that didn’t include appointed boards and commissions, elected boards and other elected or appointed offices.
Clausen listed that his experience included a stint as chairman for a grassroots government education group, being petition coordinator for a local debt control petition, and that he attended most city council meetings for four years, speaking often.
“Such classifications are neither requested and they most certainly do not fall within the parameters of the allowable experiences,” Richards wrote.
In order to be a violation of the state statue, however, the statement in question cannot be interpreted as an opinion or as true, and the candidate must have had actual knowledge that the statement was false.
Clausen responded to the investigator in the case that he made no false statements and his answers were an honest and accurate portrayal of his experience with government entities.
Tony Green, elections division spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said that he could not provide a number of complaints generally received in the days before an election.
“I can say that allegations of criminally putting false information in the Voters’ Pamphlet are only occasionally forwarded for prosecution. The bar for a criminal case is high,” he added.
Richards said he was disappointed in the agency’s decision, and has written back to the Secretary of State’s Office voicing his concern.
He added that he looked closely at Clausen’s entry in the Voters’ Pamphlet because of negative experiences with the candidate.
What Clausen listed was “very misleading” to the voters, Richards said.
“He didn’t have any governmental experience, bottom line,” Richards said.
He said that he complained because the rules shouldn’t be broken, and Clausen was breaking the rules.
“Did I vote for Sharon? Yes I did, but that’s irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. I know people will laugh at that, but that’s irrelevant,” he added.
Other Linn County candidates also listed other activity in the government experience section.
Albany City Councilor Ray Kopczynski, for example, listed his experience as a vice president of the Vintage Saab Club of North America. Linn County Commissioner John Lindsey put his Navy and National Guard service in the prior government experience section.
When notified of those entries, Richards said he would probably file additional complaints against Kopczynski and Lindsey to prove his point.