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Rep. Hernandez Files Lawsuit Against Committee and House Speaker
Alleges several breaches of due process

Embattled State Representative Diego Hernandez has filed a civil suit in Marion County Circuit Court against the Oregon Legislature, naming State Representatives Ron Noble (R-McMinnville), Julie Fahey (D-Eugene), House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Jackie Sandmeyer, head of the House Legislative Equity Office. The complaint is merely 16 pages, but is supplemented by 89 pages of attachments, including much of the evidence -- starting on page 26 -- that Hernandez said was not considered or improperly presented to the House Conduct Committee.

Hernandez alleges many breaches of due process, essentially describing the process as a political witch hunt, orchestrated by Speaker Kotek. He alleges that Sandmeyer, the head of Legislative Equity Office, had a spouse employed with the Speaker's office, and that this conflict was not disclosed to him. The Legislative Equity Office manages the investigation and process for breaches of House conduct. There is also the mystery of how the documents for the Conduct Committee was “leaked” to OPB hours before the committee members had seen them, which could potentially be tied to the Sandmeyer and spouse relationship. In his complaint, Hernandez says

On or around May 5, 2020, Plaintiff was notified that Sandmeyer was conducting a Rule 27 investigation into his alleged conduct. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff, Sandmeyer’s spouse had previously worked for Kotek, the person who made the complaint to the LEO. Neither Sandmeyer nor Kotek disclosed this relationship to Plaintiff and Sandmeyer did not recuse from this matter.

Hernandez also finds objection to the length of time that the investigation took, which was about 200 days. "Rule 27" refers to the rule in the Legislative Branch Personnel rules, titled "Harassment-Free Workplace." Hernandez

Pursuant to Rule 27 (6)(h), the investigator has 60 days from appointment to conduct the investigation and present a draft finding of fact and recommendations to the Human Resources Director, the Office of the Legislative Counsel, the complainant, and the person alleged to be involved with the harassment. The person alleged to be involved with the harassment has a right to be promptly informed of any extensions granted to the investigator and must be provided with the reason for any delay. That did not occur during this investigation....

Fahey, Noble, Sandmeyer and Kotek delayed Plaintiff’s investigation by nearly 200 days for improper purposes, did not notify Plaintiff of the reasons for the delay, failed to give Plaintiff the final findings of fact within 10 days of its submission, only provided Plaintiff with seven days to respond to the allegations, prevented Plaintiff from presenting evidence at the fact finding hearing, prevented Plaintiff from testifying without forfeiting his right to counsel, required Plaintiff to present his defense first, and precluded Plaintiff from questioning other witnesses or providing rebuttal evidence and testimony.

Hernandez's complaint also indicates that not all the evidence was fairly presented to the House Committee on Conduct, where these disputes are tried.

Sandmeyer redacted dates, how Plaintiff knew the subjects, multiple pages of text message threads and Facebook posts, any reference to the fact that two of the subjects were sisters, any reference to the fact that the subjects wanted to rekindle a romantic relationship with Plaintiff, and any reference to Kotek.

Hernandez is requesting non-economic damages in the form of emotional distress against Fahey, Noble, Sandmeyer and Kotek in the amount of $1,000,000, along with reasonable attorney fees, expert witness fees, costs, and interest. Insiders attribute the source of Speaker Kotek's anger and retaliation against him to his no vote on Speaker Kotek's PERS reform bill from the 2019 session, SB 1049 which required public employees to pay some of their own retirement. The bill passed by one vote under heavy pressure from the speaker, including a pause during the voting in which several Democrat House members were taken into the back office and "encouraged" to vote for the bill.

A resolution expelling Hernandez from the Legislature is scheduled for Tuesday.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-02-12 14:01:38Last Update: 2021-02-12 16:06:13



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