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Murmurs: Civil Rights Director Erious Johnson Sues Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

In other news: Portland could award moving costs to evicted tenants.

Erious Johnson Sues Oregon Attorney General

Erious Johnson, director of civil rights for the Oregon Department of Justice, filed a lawsuit Oct. 26 against Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, her top aides and her agency, accusing them of denying Johnson his civil rights and discriminating against him because he is African-American. (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW's parent company.) The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, stems from a Sept. 30, 2015, "threat assessment" of Johnson prepared by a DOJ criminal investigator. That investigator, James Williams, allegedly targeted Johnson because of his use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag, and mistook his tweets about the rap group Public Enemy for more sinister communications. Johnson alleges that Williams' supervisors and Rosenblum failed to train Williams properly or respond appropriately to the report he prepared. The DOJ lawyer who oversaw Williams, Darin Tweedt, was subsequently moved to an office three doors down from Johnson's. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and attorney's fees, says DOJ officials' "conduct toward Johnson demonstrated a wanton, reckless or callous indifference to the constitutional rights of Johnson." The DOJ does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Portland Could Award Moving Costs to Evicted Tenants

Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler's campaign promise to ban no-cause tenant evictions faces roadblocks, including legal opinions issued this month by attorneys for the Oregon Legislature. But the city could pass a law to bill landlords for tenants' moving costs stemming from evictions on month-to-month leases without cause. That legal opinion was issued by the Legislative Counsel to House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) in July—and the city is already acting on it. "There are likely parts of my vision that we can implement now without legislative changes, and that's part of what we are evaluating during our transition," Wheeler says, noting he's pushing for the Legislature to act in 2017 so he can "implement my full vision for 'just cause.'" John DiLorenzo, a lawyer representing large landlords, says a relocation fee could be challenged in court—and suggests he would do so.

Former Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea Indicted

A Harney County grand jury on Oct. 25 returned an indictment for negligently wounding another—a Class B misdemeanor—against former Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea. WW first reported in May that O'Dea had accidentally shot a friend while on an April trip to Harney County. As the story unfolded, it turned out that O'Dea had told the Harney County deputy who responded to the shooting a different story from the one he subsequently told his boss, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. The deputy wrote in his report that O'Dea and his friends had been sitting in a semicircle, drinking and shooting at sage rats. According to the deputy's report, O'Dea said he did not know how his friend, who was hurt badly enough to be Life Flighted to a hospital, had been shot. But when O'Dea, returned to Portland, he told Hales he had accidentally shot the man. The conflicting stories led to an Oregon Department of Justice investigation, to O'Dea's resignation in late June, and to this week's indictment. O'Dea's attorney couldn't immediately be reached for comment.