A story posted at Forbes.com today claims that Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian has regularly commingled his official duties with his campaigns for his current position for the secretary of state post he is seeking.
The article bases its claims on the heavily blacked-out calendars Avakian's office provided in response to public records requests.
"Avakian redacted 672 events during the last 20 months," the story says.
There were nearly 1,000 events redacted from the calendars of three top Avakian aides, who also received modest bonuses from Avakian's campaign account. Two of the employees contributed to one of Avakian's campaigns.
"Avakian refused to separate his public business at BOLI from his campaign business," the article concludes.
Avakian's campaign manager, Brad Pyle, says the Forbes story takes information out of context and is a partisan hit-piece engineered by supporters of Avakian's opponent in the secretary of state's race, former state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point).
"This is another example of Dennis Richardson and his supporters using the public records law to invade the privacy of public employees and citizens just like he did when he used public emails to spam thousands of people," Pyle says.
He's referring to Richardson's practice of gleaning state email lists for names and then sending newsletters and other communications to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians not in his district, a practice that led some people to call him the "Spam King."
Avakian's spokesman at the Bureau of Labor and Industries, Charlie Burr, says that the redactions from calendars applied to personal, non-BOLI-related items, and comply with the state's public records law.
Burr says it's not unusual for employees to contribute to their bosses' political campaigns and that there was no pressure to do so.
As for perhaps the most unusual allegation—that Avakian paid three employees, including Burr, bonuses from his campaign account in 2014—Burr says the payments were a recognition of the employees' volunteer work on personal time for Avakian's re-election. "There was no expectation we would be paid," Burr says. "The bonuses were just appreciation for our advice and counsel."
Burr says the pay raises he and others got were in line with other state employees' cost of living increases.
"We didn't and don't do campaign work on state time," Burr says. "The assertion than anybody has done anything wrong here is simply false."