August 7th, 2013 | by WW Editorial Staff News | Posted In: Politics, Legislature, Cops and Courts

State Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Mark Long to Settle Oregon Energy Department Investigation Case

Case stems from allegations former AG John Kroger violated a former state agency director's rights during a criminal investigation

news1b_kroger_3750Former Attorney General John Kroger - IMAGE: cameronbrowne.com

The Oregon Department of Justice has agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to former Oregon Energy Department director Mark Long to settle claims the state violated his rights when it put him under criminal investigation in 2010.

The settlement, released to WW by Long's attorneys, is here.

The investigation stemmed from allegations he steered a contract to a firm co-owned by Cylvia Hayes, companion of Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The case and its messy fallout had already cost the state more than $1 million, as WW reported in a recent story about former Attorney General John Kroger. 

Long and three other Energy Department employees were put on paid leave in 2010 while the DOJ launched an investigation into whether they improperly steered a $60,000 contract to a company called TEEM, co-owned by Hayes. TEEM had finished dead last for another contract, and records showed Long encouraged the winner of that contract to carve off part of the business and give it to Hayes' firm.

Hayes was widely known to be romantically involved with Kitzhaber, a former governor who was then running for election to a third term.

The investigation eventually cleared Long and the other employees of wrongdoing. (The investigation also found Hayes had no idea Energy Department officials had been aiding her.)

But the case revealed serious problems with the way in which Kroger's DOJ had run the investigation.

Long was represented by former AG Dave Frohnmayer and other attorneys at the Eugene firm of Harrang Long, which Mark Long's father, Stan, once ran. (Stan Long and Harrang Long principal Bill Gary were deputy AGs under Frohnmayer.) The attorneys punched back aggressively at the DOJ, filing two lawsuits that challenged the agency's tactics.

In one, Mark Long alleged that the DOJ had illegally withheld public records from him. In another, Long asked for $7.5 million in damages, claiming the state had violated his rights during the criminal investigation, withheld records and tampered with witnesses. (Long is now a manager at the Department of Consumer and Business Services.)

The state denied the claims.

The $1 million settlement is intended to bring all those issues to an end.

The Oregon Department of Justice released a statement on the settlement today. Here's the statement in full.

The long running dispute between the state and former Oregon Department of Energy official Mark Long has been settled.

“I am pleased to report that the Department of Justice and State of Oregon can put this matter behind us,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

The state will pay Long $1 million. There is no admission of liability. Win or lose, these cases would have been significantly more expensive had they continued. The $1 million settlement covers the $560,000 attorney fee judgment won by Long in a case that was on appeal as well as the $7.5 million lawsuit he had filed separately.

The dispute has its roots in a 2010 criminal investigation conducted by the Oregon Department of Justice into an Energy Department contract. The DOJ declined to prosecute Long or anyone else in the case.

Long subsequently sued the state twice, the first over records production, the second alleging the criminal investigation violated his civil rights. These matters have been ongoing for several years and this settlement puts an end to it.

“This is a lot of money, but it’s a prudent economic decision for Oregon taxpayers,” Attorney General Rosenblum said. “There is already a judgment against the state for nearly $600,000. The state also faced a potentially long and expensive trial in the other, related case. It could easily cost upwards of another million dollars just to try the case. So, even if we were to win, Oregonians could lose.”

(Rosenblum is married to WW Publisher Richard Meeker.)

One of Long's lead attorneys, Bill Gary, said in a statement the settlement shows the state did wrong.

"Regardless of no admissions of liability, the sincerest form of apology is a substantial payment to Mark Long for the damage that was done to him. (That’s a million mea culpas.)

Mark Long obtained a court order that former Attorney General John Kroger deliberately withheld public records from him at a time when Mark most needed those records.

He obtained an unprecedented monetary judgment of close to $600,000 in that public records case.

 While the state appealed that case, we pursued claims against Kroger and his chief prosecutor, Sean Riddell, for their actions that caused harm to Mark and his reputation.

All along, this has been about holding those people accountable.  Mark Long can move on with his service to the state and to those who depend on his leadership.

Attorney General Rosenblum apparently had the sense to recognize the profound consequences of the unlawful actions of her predecessor and his deputy."

Riddell was chief of the DOJ’s criminal division when the Energy Department scandal broke, and he led the investigation. Riddell’s tactics came under scrutiny by Long’s attorneys: they accused him of misleading a witness in the investigation. The Oregon State Bar cleared Riddell of wrongdoing in the matter. 

Riddell, who has not spoken out about the Energy Department case, tells WW he was willing to take on powerful interests when pursuing the case. He also said the DOJ’s decision to settle means the public will never know all the facts. 

“I asked questions the politically connected and rich did not want asked,” Riddell says. “And the people or Oregon deserved a complete airing of all the facts in court, regardless of the costs.”
 
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