April 21st, 2010 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Turns Out Brent Foster Was Second High-Profile Departure From AG's Office

John Kroger

Yesterday's news that Brent Foster, formerly Attorney General John Kroger's top enviornmental lawyer, was making an untimely exit from Kroger's office surprised many in the legal community.

But Foster's departure, which was related to his conduct in a criminal case in Hood River in which his former employer Columbia Riverkeeper played a role, came on the heels of another departure by one of Kroger's high-profile assistants.

At the end of March, Margaret Olney left of her own volition to return to private practice. Kroger hired Olney and Foster back in December 2008, shortly before taking office. The hires addressed two of Kroger's campaign pledges: that he would enforce bothelections and environmental laws vigorously. Olney came to the AG's office after representing groups including the Oregon Education Association and Basic Rights Oregon on election matters. But she says the job in Salem turned out not to be what she hoped.

"It just wasn't a great fit for my skills," says Olney. "One thing that did happen is I didn't get to do as much election work as I hoped."

Olney worked in Kroger's "front office" where senior lawyers handle policy and administrative duties rather than the actual practice of law. "I worked on child support issues but as a liaison, not a director," she says. "In the end I felt I just wanted to have a more concrete role."

Olney says she would like to continue to be involved in children's issues and will return to practicing election law as well.

"I'm like a kid in a candy store," she says. "I would like to do a little of a lot of things."

The departure of two high-profile (within the legal community, at least) assistants could actually benefit Kroger in an odd way. They'll remove two potential lightning rods for critics: Foster because of his advocacy work, particularly on LNG terminals; and Olney because of her historical closeness to the public employee unions who strongly supported Kroger's campaign.
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