April 6th, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Kroger Challenged on Top Aide for Ballot Measures

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Liberal critics of Oregon's ballot-measure process rejoiced last year when Attorney General-elect John Kroger let it be known he was hiring longtime union lawyer Margaret Olney to oversee election-law reform.

Olney has earned praise for her work with two powerhouses — the Oregon Education Association and the Service Employees International Union, which dumped cash into Kroger's campaign against Greg Macpherson.

But now that Kroger is in office, one petitioner is asking him to keep Olney away from judging his initiatives, claiming a potential conflict of interest.

In a letter (PDF) to Kroger dated April 3, Salem lawyer Nathan Rietmann says his client, Tim Rohrer, has filed four 2010 initiative petitions. Because of Olney's past work with the OEA, Rietmann says Olney should be screened "from any participation in the ballot title preparation and judicial review processes associated with these petitions."

Two of Rohrer's initiative petitions are rehashes of last November's failed Measure 64 on union payroll deductions. The other two concern union members' right to hold elections by secret ballot. Rietmann tells WW he presumes unions would strongly oppose all four petitions.

"There are conflict-of-interest rules that apply to attorneys both in private and public practice," Rietmann says. “We just want to make sure that she's screened off from involvement, given her prior representation of certain interests.”

Tony Green, a spokesman for Kroger, declined to comment because the AG's front office had not yet seen Rietmann's letter.
 
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