Two Oregon Liquor Control Commissioners say they only learned of Steve Marks' 2010 DUII arrest a short time before yesterday's unanimous vote approving Marks as the new OLCC executive director.
Marks, who served a top
aide to Gov. John Kitzhaber from 1995 to 2003, was a $6,300-a-month Kitzhaber campaign aide on Sept. 29, 2010 when an Oregon State Police trooper
arrested him on a DUII charge just south of the I-217 interchange on
Interstate 5. The Washington County District Attorney's office later declined to press charges.
OLCC chairman Rob Patridge told WW today that he'd known the details of Marks' arrest for months but only shared the news with other commissioners when reporters began asking questions about Marks' arrest last week.
Patridge, whom Kitzhaber appointed Klamath County District Attorney in March, has repeatedly told WW that Marks' Sept 29, 2010 DUII arrest is irrelevant, because Marks was only arrested and not convicted.
The OLCC is responsible for enforcing liquor laws and has a particular emphasis on reducing drinking and driving.
Contacted today, two OLCC commissioners say they had little information about the arrest.
"Chairman [Rob] Patridge called me within the past week to tell me about the arrest," says Commissioner Michael Harper, who missed yesterday's OLCC vote because of a previously scheduled trip.
"It did give me some pause and created some conversation but Chair Patridge explained the situation and said it was not enough to change our course," Harper says.
Commissioner Bob Rice says he learned of the arrest less than 48 hours before the commission unanimously approved Marks for the job on Thursday. Rice, who owns the Virginia Cafe in downtown Portland, says he never saw the police report from Marks' Sept 29, 2010 arrest on a DUII charge and was never told the report said that Marks twice denied drinking before failing a field sobriety test.
"That should have been disclosed to me," Rice says. "Would it have made a difference in the way I voted? I don't know." (A fourth commissioner, Pamela Weatherspoon, did not return calls. The fifth commission spot is vacant.)
WW today obtained the Washington County District Attorney's case file (PDF) on the arrest.
On Oct. 27, 2010, Mathew Lehman, a Washington County deputy district attorney, declined to prosecute the case.
"Given the .05% BAC, I do not believe a jury would find Mr. Marks guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Lehman wrote to an Oregon State Police supervisor.
In Oregon, drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher are automatically presumed to be intoxicated. Washington County Chief Deputy District Attorney Roger Hanlon says Washington County does charge drivers whose blood alcohol level is below .08 if they are "impaired to a noticeable degree" but says it would be rare to charge somebody with a .05 reading.
"We have prosecuted .06 and even .05," Hanlon says. "But to do so you have to have really bad driving or drugs."Hanlon says the dismissal was routine and—although it came less than a week before the Nov. 2, 2010 general election in which Kitzhaber eked out a victory over Republican Chris Dudley—it was made without any political influence.
"There was absolutely no communication from the Kitzhaber campaign or anybody about this case," Halon says. "The dismissal was appropriate and by the book."
Marks, who has been working in the state Department of Administrative Services since 2011, started his new $140,0364 job on Friday.