Activist Seeks to Force County Commissioner Loretta Smith to Resign Over Campaigning Last Fall

Smith is now officially running for City Council, but the controversy over when her campaign officially began continues.

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith (Multnomah County)

A petition submitted to the the Multnomah County Circuit Court this morning seeks to force Commissioner Loretta Smith to resign over alleged violations of the county charter.

The legal action, authored by a good-government advocate, has been expected since at last month when the county attorney invited a lawsuit over the issue.

The new document will continue an ongoing controversy for Smith, over whether she technically began her campaign for City Council before Jan. 1 and thus must resign.

The Multnomah County charter prohibits commissioners from running for another office more than a year from the end of their term.

The Portland Tribune first reported that the legal action was expected to be filed today.

It's the latest effort by Seth Woolley, secretary of the Pacific Green Party of Oregon.

His previous complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State's elections division for this and other alleged elections violations resulted in a $250 fine for Smith and a determination that under state elections law, Smith had effectively begun her campaign in September.

Smith waited to file for the seat occupied by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman until January 2, but she announced her intentions to run for office in September and began collecting campaign donations last year.

Woolley's legal argument relies on the fact that the charter is unclear about a technical definition of a "run for another elective office," while state law defines a "candidate" as someone who has collected campaign donations.

Term limits prevent Smith from running for a third term at the county; in addition, her campaign consultant, Jake Weigler, told the newspaper The Skanner that her donations since September should count toward her run for Council.

"As the Secretary of State has now determined all her fundraising since Sept. 12 should be considered for a race for city council, the county's fundraising limits do not apply," Weigler told the Skanner.

Smith's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has previously said they were relying on advice from the county attorney.

This is not the only controversy surrounding Smith. She was previously fined for conducting campaign activity on public time.

Last year, a county investigation found that she likely abused women of color on her staff using racially charged epithets and sexually explicit language. Smith has disputed those findings.

In turn, she has accused the county of systemic racism. Last month, county chair Deborah Kafoury called Smith a "bitch" at the end of a county board meeting where Smith challenged her. Smith labeled that epithet as "racially charged," the Portland Mercury reported, and has received two public apologies from Kafoury.

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