Enviro Group Accuses Hales Campaign of Breaking Law by Secretly Recording a Meeting


<img src="http://www.wweek.com/portland/imgs/media.images/8723/hales_3.t2.jpg"/>

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters today blasted the campaign of mayoral candidate Charlie Hales for what the environmental group says is "unethical and possibly illegal use of endorsement interviews."

At issue is a story WW posted last week quoting Hales' opponent State Rep. Jefferson Smith. In his OLCV interview, Smith suggested that as mayor, he could round up 2,000 volunteers and pave the city's potholes for $18,000. Doing so could put him at odds with another group that has endorsed him, Laborers Local 483, whose members include the city employees who currently fill potholes.

Here's the statement OLCV released today:

This afternoon, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters announced the results of its investigation into the unauthorized, unethical and possibly illegal recording and release of OLCV’s confidential endorsement process. After an extensive investigation including conversations with both campaigns, OLCV concluded that the Hales campaign recorded the interview.

“This was a tremendous breach of trust,” said Doug Moore, OLCV Executive Director. “Charlie Hales is someone who had earned OLCV’s endorsement in the past, someone who requested our endorsement, and someone who has many friends in the environmental community. That his campaign would do this is such a profound disappointment.”

The incident in question came to light after recordings of OLCV’s confidential endorsement process were released to the media.

“Never in the nearly four decade history of our organization has a campaign ever violated this trust, let alone through the secret – and likely illegal – recording of our confidential process,” said Charlie Burr, OLCV Political Action Committee Board Chair. “Both campaigns were repeatedly informed this was a confidential process. There’s no place for the type of unethical behavior demonstrated here by the Hales campaign. It’s beyond troubling and totally unacceptable.”

During the investigation, OLCV also discovered that the Hales campaign appears to have gathered information in violation of ORS 165.540(1). That statute prohibits any person from recording, or using a recording of, a face-to-face conversation unless “all participants in the conversation are specifically informed that their conversation is being obtained.” The campaign appears to have recorded the endorsement interviews, but it never informed the participants that the conversation was being recorded, in violation of ORS 165.540(1)(c). The campaign then provided that recording to a media outlet, seemingly in violation of ORS 165.540(1)(d) and (e). Thus, the campaign’s conduct appears to have been illegal. See, e.g., State v. Bichsel, 101 Or App 257, 262, 790 P2d 1142 (1990).

The campaign could be subject to criminal prosecution as a result of its conduct, which is potentially a class A misdemeanor. Maximum punishment is a year imprisonment and a fine of $6,250, according to ORS 165.615(a).

“The Charlie Hales campaign’s actions demonstrate a profound lack of integrity, judgment and respect for the process,” said Moore. “We call for a public apology by the Hales campaign for this unethical and possibly illegal activity as well as the destruction of all secretly recorded conversations. Despite the legal implications, we are not filing a legal complaint against the Hales campaign. But Charlie Hales needs to take responsibility for the actions of his campaign and do the right thing.”

The Hales campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

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