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Clatsop County DA Pay Measure Failing

OPB | Nov. 7, 2007 8:29 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:18 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Colin Fogarty

The cut in pay for Clatsop County district attorney Josh Marquis appears likely to remain in place.  A ballot measure on whether the county will kick in its portion of his pay is failing by a very narrow margin.

District Attorneys'  salaries are generally paid by the state, but most counties supplement that salary to some degree. Colin Fogarty reports.


Small town politics can get nasty.  A day after the election, the protagonists in this saga are still complaining about the verbal attacks they’ve suffered at the hands of their adversaries. Here's Clatsop County district attorney John Marquis.

Josh Marquis: "The level of invective and vitriol that they’ve directed at me and my family has been remarkable in my experience in politics."

And here’s Clatsop County commissioner Jeff Hazen’s counter complaint.

Jeff Hazen:  "They’ve accused us, meaning some of the commissioners were liars and money launderers.  And that’s real troubling." 

And not true, he adds.  And to think, all this controversy stems from $14,000 in the Clatsop County budget.  That’s how much county commissioners voted to cut from Josh Marquis’ salary in a budget hearing last May.

Hazen says he pushed the idea originally on principle—he thinks the state should pay the district attorney’s entire salary.  But now he’s critical of Marquis himself.

Jeff Hazen: "You know other things happened during the campaign, things were said that were very difficult to take.  But going back to the budget hearing the reason that I did it, was because I do believe he was getting a free ride off the backs of the counties."

After the pay cut was approved in the county budget, a bipartisan group of Josh Marquis supporters sponsored an initiative to tie the district attorney’s pay to that of judges.  That would have restored Marquis’s salary.

Now that voters have had their say, the last count shows the measure  failing by just 46 votes out of more than 13,000 cast.  Marquis says he’s already thinking about getting another job.

Josh Marquis: "I think a lot of the public doesn’t understand this.  But elected officials in Oregon are extremely badly paid.  And I’m not a wealthy person and I have to pay my bills.  I’m 55 years old and I’ve practiced law for over 25 years.  And I have obligations to my family as well as obligations to my community."

Marquis had considered running for state attorney general.  But two high profile Democrats are already seeking that job.  And besides, Marquis points out that the attorney general of Oregon earns less than district attorneys do. 

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