On Sunday evening, Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, alerted the Oregon Secretary of State’s office that he would be resigning, but at the time he said it would not be until the end of March. On Monday afternoon, Hernandez revised the date saying he plans to stay in office through March 15, rather than March 31 as he had originally proposed.
Hernandez said in a text message to OPB that he made the change due to “office/staff transitions/health care” issues.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Hernandez would continue to accept his pay, benefits and $151 per diem until March 15 when his resignation is effective.
“If you’re elected and in office, you get your salaries and benefits until you are no longer in office,” said Jessica Knieling, the Legislature’s human resource director, who provided OPB with a copy of Hernandez’s letter of resignation. “It’s not discretionary. It’s statutory.”
Hernandez does not plan to participate in any legislative committee hearings in the upcoming weeks, which could present problems for his fellow Democrats who want to pass bills out of the committees he currently sits on. Hernandez sits on the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures, House Committee on Energy and Environment, House Committee on Revenue and the House Committee on General Government.
After a panel of lawmakers determined Hernandez had violated legislative harassment rules, the entire House was scheduled to vote on his possible expulsion Tuesday.
Hernandez would have been the first lawmaker to be expelled from the body. It would have taken a two-thirds vote, or 40 members of the chamber to expel him.
After submitting a resignation, lawmakers have three days to withdraw the resignation. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said the House would push the expulsion vote to the following week. Once Hernandez’s resignation becomes final, the House would set the motion aside.
Kotek, who was one of several Democratic colleagues who urged Hernandez to resign, said she was being cautious in her remarks due to a pending lawsuit.
Hernandez sued the Legislature and some individuals, including Kotek, seeking $1 million in damages, plus attorney fees, noting the process of investigating allegations against him has inflicted “emotional distress in the form of anguish, embarrassment, loss of reputation, fear, worry, grief, anger, confusion, frustration, loss of sleep, and interference with usual life activities” for him.
But Kotek noted even “in a virtual work setting legislators have tremendous power” and it was important to hold members accountable.
To replace Hernandez, Democratic precinct committee people in his district will select between three and five people. This must be done within 20 days of the vacancy. Multnomah County Commissioners will then consider the candidates and select one to fill the remainder of Hernandez’s term. They must choose Hernandez’s replacement within 30 calendar days of the vacancy.
The 2021 legislative session is currently underway.