Oregon Cities

Oregon Secretary of State declines to investigate Jackson County for alleged elections law violations

The group, called Jackson County For All of Us, has three measures on the May primary ballot regarding restructuring the county Board of Commissioners. They want to change the commissioner positions from being partisan to nonpartisan, increase the number of commissioners from three to five and reduce their salaries.

The Jackson County Court House in Medford on March 1, 2024.

The Jackson County Court House in Medford on March 1, 2024.

Erik Neumann / JPR

The group claims that Jackson County leadership, including the current commissioners, county administrator and county counsel, has been one-sided in their discussions of these measures, among other claims. They reference a presentation County Administrator Danny Jordan made to commissioners on Feb. 15, when he said the measures would cost the county a minimum of about $200,000 and potentially up to $700,000. He showed a predicted budget of how some costs would increase, including health insurance and office materials.

“The whole tenor of the meeting and the whole everything has been kind of ramped up, feeling a little hostile and aggressive and not neutral,” said Denise Krause, one of the chief filers for the group. “We want the measures to be considered on their merits, based on facts. Not wild estimates that are meant to oppose or to sway.”

But the Secretary of State’s office said “staff didn’t hear or see any possible violations presented in the complaint.”

In an email on Thursday, Jordan said, “While I don’t have any details as to the SOS’s decision, I read that email such that the allegations were so baseless that they weren’t even investigated.” He declined to comment further.

Jordan referenced an email he received from Dave Gilmour, one of the chief filers for JCFA. In it, Gilmour thanked Jordan for his “excellent and detailed evaluation of potential costs that would be incurred if the proposed ballot measures pass,” saying, “the public deserves to know the numbers, so that they can be fully informed before the May election.”

By state law, public employees are not allowed to promote or oppose an initiative. However, by the same statute, that does not include elected officials.

Jordan, meanwhile, said in the February meeting that his job is to manage the county’s budget.

“I believe my presentation to have been ‘no-sided,’” Jordan said in an emailed statement last week. “It was factually accurate as to my knowledge, experience and expertise having prepared the County budget now for nearly 20 years, and/or having prepared budgets in Jackson and other counties totaling a combined over 30 years.”

Krause said they’ll submit more information to the state for consideration.

“The door isn’t closed, and more information can be submitted, and we do have more information to submit. So our main goal is to cease violations. Don’t do it more. The initial damage is done, but we’d rather play by the rules, both sides,” she said.

Krause previously ran for the Board of Commissioners as a Democrat and announced this week that she is running again. The current county commissions are all Republicans.

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