UPDATE (2:40 p.m. PST, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018) — A petition filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Tuesday is demanding county Commissioner Loretta Smith resign.
The petition seeks to use a rare process that legally obligates public officials to correct any violation of a statute, rule or ordinance.
Campaign finance activist Seth Woolley, who filed the petition, said he’s trying to use the power of the courts to force Smith’s resignation.
“The courts tend to not like when people are intentionally trying to get around the spirit of the law, and, in my view, it’s not just the spirit of the law — it’s literally the law,” Woolley said.
Woolley is referring to the Multnomah County Charter, which states: “No elected official of Multnomah County may run for another elective office in midterm without resigning first. Filing for another office in midterm shall be the same as a resignation, effective as of date of filing.”
Smith announced plans to join the 2018 race for a seat on the Portland City Council long before formally filing this month. Her campaign has denied claims she violated the county charter, arguing that she had not formally filed before her final year in office.
“I think this is nothing but nonsense,” Smith said in response to the petition. “It’s really bizarre behavior that someone would file these kind of lawsuits against elected officials who actually are trying to serve the community.”
Smith said there was a “double standard” over whether she violated the county charter after announcing her bid for city council, referring to former County Commissioner Jules Bailey’s announcement to run for Mayor mid term in 2015.
“I don’t know why there’s such a double standard, but I’m not going to be distracted by Seth Woolley,” Smith said, adding that she wants to focus on the issues. “This is really not an important issue for me.”
Smith, who’s running to replace city Commissioner Dan Saltzman, has been criticized for acting like a candidate before she filed and for raising thousands of dollars since October last year.
In December, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s office determined Smith was a candidate despite not having formally filed, citing her Sept. 12 announcement to run for office in the Willamette Week. Richardson’s office also cited her Facebook page, which states “Loretta Smith for Portland City Council.”
The county said Richardson’s ruling would not affect how the county’s attorney interprets the charter and how it applies to Smith.
Woolley, who also filed the complaint to Richardson’s office, said he believes his petition could lead to Smith’s resignation. Woolley said he has been issued a case number by the county and will have to serve the petition to Smith.
“The county and the state are not doing their jobs,” Woolley said of the county’s obligation to play a role in Smith’s resignation. “Everybody’s not doing their jobs.”
This story has been updated.