Murmurs: Criminal Probe Examines Johnson Signatures

In other news: Jury awards injured protester $40,000.

CRIMINAL PROBE EXAMINES JOHNSON SIGNATURES: The Oregon Secretary of State is investigating 74 signature sheets that the unaffiliated candidate for governor Betsy Johnson submitted in August to qualify for the ballot. Through a public records request, WW learned that the SOS is withholding the signature sheets in question from a lawyer who’d requested them, citing an exemption to the public records law that allows “investigatory information compiled for criminal law purposes to be withheld.” Ben Morris, a spokesman for Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, the state’s top elections officer, says the investigation is preliminary and being conducted by staff in the Elections Division. “We are not investigating Betsy Johnson or her campaign,” Morris says. “We are investigating individuals hired by the signature gathering firm that worked on her nominating petition.” Jennifer Sitton, a spokeswoman for the Johnson campaign, says the investigation involves only the signature gathering firm Initiative & Referendum Campaign Management Services, which the Johnson campaign paid $897,000 to collect the 23,744 valid voter signatures required. IRCMS founder and CEO Ted Blaszak didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. “The investigation we are conducting will have no bearing on whether Betsy Johnson qualified for the ballot,” Morris adds. “She had more than enough valid signatures to do so.”

JURY AWARDS INJURED PROTESTER $40K: A jury awarded $40,272 in damages this week to a woman who was beaten by Portland police during a 2020 protest. Officers struck Erin Wenzel, a 35-year-old care coordinator at Oregon Health & Science University, with a nightstick and threw her to the ground during the Aug. 14, 2020, demonstration, breaking both of her arms and leaving her with ongoing PTSD. She was there as a medic, she said. Wenzel was not arrested, but her husband, Phillip, was booked in jail for allegedly assaulting a police officer. The charge was dropped. There was no video of the incident, which occurred after officers instructed Wenzel and other marchers to disperse as they approached the previously burned and vandalized police union headquarters. City attorneys argued that the force was necessary. The jury disagreed. It found that one or more of the unnamed officers had committed battery, but stopped short of finding the city negligent. It’s one of many similar civil cases that have been filed against the city, but the first to go to trial. Juan Chavez, an attorney who has represented protesters in other cases against the city, says this jury verdict would allow him to pursue damages in his cases more aggressively. “Getting this F on their record is a big deal,” he says.

VADIM MOZYRSKY ENDORSES RENE GONZALEZ: Former Portland City Council candidate Vadim Mozyrsky endorsed lawyer Rene Gonzalez on Oct. 4 over his opponent, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. That’s not entirely surprising: Mozyrsky’s stated policies more closely align with Gonzalez’s on both policing and homelessness, and Gonzalez is running on a pro-police platform and seeks to enforce anti-camping laws, whereas Hardesty has long been a critique of the Portland Police Bureau and opposes camp sweeps. “We don’t just need a new direction, we need someone to actually provide direction,” Mozyrsky tells WW. “I believe Rene is that individual.” Another connection between the two former opponents: Mozyrsky is lobbying against the charter reform measure that will appear on Portland’s November ballot. Gonzalez recently said he would vote against the measure. Hardesty said last week she intended to vote for it, ending months of declining to take a position.

CLATSKANIE REFINERY HINGES ON RAIL RULING: Opponents of a massive renewable diesel refinery on the Columbia River near Clatskanie are watching for a decision Oct. 28 on a key part of the plant’s infrastructure. That’s when they expect the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals to rule whether Next Renewable Fuels can install railroad tracks to serve the proposed plant. The decision turns on whether the tracks constitute a “yard” or a “branch line.” It’s being built on land zoned for agriculture, where a branch line would be permitted but a larger yard would not, according to the Columbia Riverkeeper, which appealed Columbia County’s March 23 decision to allow the rail line. Next says it needs the rail to import vegetable oil and other raw materials should the Columbia River close to tanker traffic. Opponents say the 12.3-acre rail terminal is a “yard” that would block access to mint fields owned by local farmers. Next’s opponents hope that blocking the rail will deep-six the whole refinery. “If they don’t have a railyard, then they don’t have a project,” says Jasmine Lillich, 29, a local farmer. Next didn’t return an email.

AD LEGEND DAN WIEDEN DIES: Dan Wieden, the Portland ad man whose coining of the Nike slogan “Just Do It” vaulted his agency Wieden+Kennedy into global prominence, died at home Friday, the company announced. He was 77. Wieden was one of the seminal figures in the emergence of Portland as a city that signified more to the national consciousness than lumberjacks and rain. In 1982, he and David Kennedy founded an advertising agency with just one client: an Oregon-based sneaker company called Nike. The two companies would collaborate on some of the most iconic ad campaigns of the past half century: the “Bo Knows” spots, Charles Barkley declaring he was not a role model, and Colin Kaepernick showing why he was one. Wieden, meanwhile, presided over an office culture in Northwest Portland that became famous for luring the most creative young people in America to sell Coca-Cola and Levi’s jeans. His passing means both founding partners at Wieden + Kennedy are gone: David Kennedy died one year ago. “We are heartbroken,” the company says. “But even more so, we are overcome with gratitude and love.”