It’s one thing to get ousted from office, but quite another when the ousting is based on false statements. That’s what recently recalled Lowell City Councilor Pam Bryant alleges in her Jan. 7 lawsuit against Kenneth Hern and Nancy Garratt, two members of the Recall for Lowell’s Future Committee that sought to remove her from office.
Lowell, a city with a population of about 1,000, is located on the north shore of Dexter Reservoir, southeast of Eugene. On Dec. 10, 2013, Lowell’s recall election resulted in Bryant’s recall by a margin of 26 votes. Fellow Councilor Gary Reese was also subject to a recall vote but was not voted out. In the complaint filed by David Bahr, Bryant’s attorney, Bryant alleges that the defendants presented a series of false statements that “were intended to mislead voters in the recall election and cause Ms. Bryant’s defeat,” and that this action is in violation of the Oregon Corrupt Practices Act.
Bryant says that she supports political debate, but elections should be based on truth and honesty to help voters make informed decisions. “People rely on the information that is put out in flyers, newspaper articles and official documents, and we as a people need to be honest, because when people base their vote on false statements, they’re not getting a fair shake,” she says.
Bahr says that the defendants made a range of accusations against Bryant, some of which were main talking points in the recall effort. He says the accusations are “just like pasta. They’re throwing them up on the wall to see if they stick.”
One such accusation involves the Political Action Committee (PAC) Save Our Schools Lowell. A flyer allegedly created by the defendants, entitled “Facts and Information about Pam Bryant and Gary Reese,” states that Bryant “formed ‘Save-Our-Schools Lowell’ to raise money for our schools … Save-Our-Schools Lowell does not exist.”
Bahr points out that the Oregon secretary of state’s website shows Bryant formed Save Our Schools Lowell on Feb. 25, 2011, and she is listed as the treasurer (wkly.ws/1o8).
“School funding is a major issue in Lowell, and I believe that Ms. Bryant was staking at least part of her position in the community as someone advocating for schools, so it’s damaging for someone to say that it’s totally made up and not true,” Bahr says.
Bryant says she is a strong school supporter, and she thinks the accusations were an attempt to discredit her with the education community.
Other statements that Bryant alleges are false include Bryant recording a Lowell City Council executive session meeting, inferring that the Lowell city administrator was involved in missing city money and calling the city attorney without authorization.
“We’re certainly not against free exercise of opinion in the political debate,” Bahr says. “That’s why we have the First Amendment. But the state of Oregon has established the boundaries for what you can get away with, and you just can’t make statements that are politically untrue.”
Bryant’s complaint says she seeks economic damages, attorney fees and for the defendants to retract their false statements. She is considering running for councilor again this fall. “It would be nice to know that people aren’t thinking that I’m anti-school, anti-growth and anti-business when I’m not,” she says.