A complaint filed today in Multnomah County could oust Loretta Smith from her spot as a county commissioner and impact the future campaigns of county politicians who have aspirations for other offices.
At issue is whether Smith should be forced to resign from the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners because she's been campaigning for a Portland City Council seat before the start of her final year at the county. County rules dictate elected officials can't run for another office in mid-term without first resigning. Despite the fact Smith raised thousands of dollars for the city council campaign, publicly announced months ago she's running, and hired campaign staff, her campaign insists she wasn't formally a candidate until she filed paperwork to appear on the ballot earlier this month.
Seth Woolley, an activist and longtime campaign finance reform advocate, filed a petition against Smith today asking the court to command her to "resign from office as a Multnomah County Commissioner, immediately," or "show cause why she should not be ordered to resign from office as a Multnomah County Commissioner." Today's news was first reported by the Portland Tribune.
Woolley, who's been the biggest thorn in Smith's side during her city council campaign, previously won a legal victory against the county commissioner. In December, in response to another complaint Woolley made, the state's elections division fined Smith $250, determining she skirted campaign finance law by not updating her candidate committee to indicate she's running for city council. Her committee, from which she accepts donations, indicated she was still running for a county commissioner spot.
If Woolley wins this battle, Smith would be out of her current job. It would also give clearer directions to future county politicians running for other office—then-Commissioner Jules Bailey did similar things when he campaigned for the 2016 mayoral race. The loophole used—that it's not technically running until the formal paperwork to be on the ballot is filed even if you're raking in tons of cash for the campaign—would be essentially closed from here on out.
"It was unlawful for Loretta Smith to commence running for another elective office without resigning first from her Multnomah County Commissioner position," his petition states. "Because Loretta Smith in 2017 was running for an elective office other than her current Multnomah County Commissioner seat, the Multnomah County Charter requires that she resign as County Commissioner."
Read some other coverage of the Loretta Smith campaign saga:
•Mercury, November 1: "Loretta Smith is Raking in Cash for a City Council Run: Is She Allowed to Keep Her County Job While Campaigning?"
•Mercury, December 8: "County Commissioner Loretta Smith Fined For City Council Campaign Violation"
•Willamette Week, January 8: "Documents Show Multnomah County Democrats Gave Commissioner Loretta Smith Access to Voter Database, a Privilege Reserved for Official Candidates"
•Portland Tribune, January 16: "Legal action seeks to force Loretta Smith to resign now"
And here's the main document Woolley submitted to the courts today: