Handy’s Battles in Court Continue

Almost a year after he began to fight misconduct charges he said were timed to be revealed just before the May 2012 election, former Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy’s public meetings, public records and federal lawsuits continue to make their way through the legal system.

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in late March that Handy and fellow plaintiff, constituent Brian McCall, did not establish a case under federal law and she declined to take jurisdiction under state law, so Handy’s attorneys made a motion for permission to amend and clarify the complaint. Aiken effectively denied the repleading Handy’s attorneys filed when she entered her judgment on the case.

Handy’s case against Lane County, Liane Richardson, Jay Bozievich, Faye Stewart and Sid Leiken centered on the county locking him out of his office, restricting him in his ability access to the county building and keeping him from accessing his email account not only during a state investigation into the misconduct complaint, but also after the state investigators said there was no need to do so. The repleading says that those restrictions seriously “undermined his ability to do his elected job.”

The case started when Eugene businessman Alan Thayer and EWEB Commissioner John Brown alleged that Handy improperly solicited money to pay down a debt to the county, but the AG’s office investigated and said the facts didn’t show that Handy acted in his official capacity in soliciting the money or promised to do anything as an official. The state Ethics Commission is still looking at the allegation. Handy at the time predicted he would be exonerated, but too late for the election.

Handy’s federal case alleges retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights and that he was denied due process and also alleges violations of the Constitution’s equal protection clause and of the Oregon Public Meetings Law. The last allegation arose from a swiftly called May 3, 2012, “emergency meeting” of the three conservative commissioners and Richardson in which it was decided to release public records in regard to Thayer’s complaint. Handy’s own public records request related to that case was met with a $2.7 million fee, which Handy could not pay, and he said it was an unreasonable amount for a public records request. Handy is said to be appealing a Coos Bay judge’s ruling in that case.

The repleading sought to clarify points such as that Handy’s lack of office access was not “de minimus” or trivial, as Aiken wrote in her opinion, but rather says that “the computer to which he was given access was in a conference room that was used by other people for meetings; and he was unable to hold office hours for his constituents to come speak with him.”

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