The issues swirling around the candidacy of Roberta Phillip-Robbins, a Democratic candidate for House District 43 (North and Northeast Portland) are not yet settled.
On Friday, WW reported Phillip-Robbins was ineligible to run because of the Hatch Act, a federal ethics law that prohibits people who work for the federal government or whose jobs are funded entirely with grant funds from running for a partisan office. Later that day, Phillip-Robbins resigned from her job at the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, where she did federally-funded gang prevention work.
Phillip-Robbins' resignation from her county job might have satisfied the federal Office of Special Counsel, which prosecutes Hatch Act violations and in similar cases has pushed candidates to choose between their jobs and their political aspirations.
But Sean Cruz, a Portland writer and former legislative staffer, is not placated. On May 9, Cruz, who has endorsed Tawna Sanchez, Phillip-Robbins' opponent, filed a complaint with the secretary of state's elections division.
Cruz's complaint argues that because Phillip-Robbins was ineligible to run from her Dec. 17, 2015 candidate filing through her May 6 resignation from the county, she illegally—even if inadvertently—collected nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions during that time.
"There is a perception that resigning the position disqualifying the employee from being a candidate in a partisan election somehow instantly and simultaneously launders the cash that the employee/candidate solicited and accepted during the period that the employee/candidate was not legally permitted to do so, a clear violation of state and federal law," Cruz wrote in his complaint.
"I believe that a misreading and a misapplication of the law is taking place in this contest," he continues, "and that—whether deliberately or inadvertently or through negligence—election laws have been broken and an impartial investigation is called for."
Since the Hatch Act is a federal, rather than state law, it is unclear what level of scrutiny, if any, the elections division will give the complaint.
Legislative candidates, including Phillip-Robbins fill out a variety of forms when filing to run. One of them, a state form called SEL 101, requires candidates to attest to the eligibility for office.
"By signing this document, I hereby state that I will qualify for said office if elected," says the state form, which Phillip-Robbins filled out prior to entering the race in December.
Phillip-Robbins says she thinks the point is moot.
"As far as I'm concerned this issue is over," Phillip-Robbins said in a statement. "As soon as I was made aware that I'd been given incorrect information from the Multnomah County Attorney's office I acted to remedy the situation."
Molly Woon, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's elections division, says her agency received the complaint but cannot comment.