Former Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins today filed an elections complaint against the man who succeeded her as the state's top elections officer, the current Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.
Atkins is a Democrat and Richardson a Republican.
The complaint comes in response to a newsletter Richardson published earlier this week, in which he commented on a scathing audit his audits division did of the Oregon Health Authority, which has been under fire for making more than $100 million in erroneous Medicaid payments.
In his newsletter, Richardson, who won election last year, wrote:
“Soon Oregon voters will be considering whether or not to approve tax increases intended to provide additional funding to the OHA. With such abysmal examples of OHA misfeasance and obfuscation, OHA faces tough questions about its credibility and its ability to appropriately spend the money it is provided.”
In her complaint—filed with Richardson’s chief elections officer, Steve Trout—Atkins, who is now the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Oregon, says that through that communication, Richardson violated a state law that prohibits public employees from using state time or resources to try to influence an election.
Atkins asks that because Trout works for Richardson, he refer her complaint to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for investigation. (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to Richard Meeker, the co-owner of WW‘s parent company).
The underlying elections issue is Ballot Measure 101, which is an attempt to partially repeal a hospital and health insurance tax passed by the 2017 Legislature. The measure was referred by state Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), a close Richardson ally, which Atkins notes in her complaint.
UPDATE, 3:55 pm: Richardson released a statement, standing by his newsletter’s remarks.
“Our Oregon Health Authority audit revealed that in just six months, OHA wasted more than $88 million,” Richardson says. “Today, the Democratic Party Chair filed a meritless complaint to divert attention from OHA’s wasteful spending. Holding to my deeply held principles of transparency and accountability, we transferred this matter to the Oregon Department of Justice for review.”