Monday, March 19, 2007

Oregon Libertarian Party--sex, money and political wrongdoing?

Richard Burke, the Exec Director of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, is a man under a magnifying glass. Most party leaders are. But Burke's scrutiny may be getting a little too close for comfort.

First was a lawsuit brought against the LPO citing mismanagement and failure to adhere to party bylaws. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

Burke now faces a new series of problems which directly challenge both his party authority and his personal integrity.

Last Thursday, Tristan Reisfar of KPOV community radio in Bend, opened up a new can of worms on Burke. Reisfar discovered a series of allegations against Burke which include romancing a national Libertarian Party worker in order to gain access to donor information. But perhaps more damaging is an allegation that Burke helped an LPO member loyal to him obtain a seat on the Tualatin Valley Water Board.

Appearing on Reisfar's show to offer testimony into the first allegation was Bruce Knight, former LPO candidate for Congress and party activist. Knight printed a Gmail chat allegedly held between Richard Burke and a young woman working for the national Libertarian Party.

The chat includes what appears to be Burke trying to pump the young woman for information on donors who give large sums of money to the Libertarian Party. The end of the chat clearly indicates that there is some sort of romancing (or at the very least overtures of cybersex) between the two of them.

Knight published the Gmail chat in a newsletter that he generates called The Oregon Libertarian.

According to Knight, Burke's Executive Director LPO contract gives him a 50% cut of all donations he brings in.

Reisfar also discovered another possible problem for Burke: He may have paved the way for his LPO crony to gain a seat on the Tualatin Valley Water Board.

On February 7, Steve Pearson was appointed to a seat on the Tualatin Valley Water Board. Pearson replaced former member Gordon Martin, who died January 6 from cancer. Pearson's appointment lasts through June 30, 2007.

Reisfar said he noticed a Google groups (must be a member to access, unfortunately) announcement reprinted from the Oregonian announcing Pearson's appointment. The O piece is here. Interestingly, the search process for that piece also yielded an LTE from a Washington County resident, who is unhappy with Pearson's appointment to replace Martin.

Reisfar also located Pearson's LPO bio which makes his relationship with the organization easy to understand.

Reisfar says he then contacted Wes Wagoner (who I attempted to track down, but couldn't find current contact information), a Clackamas County LPO state committee member. Wagoner is the guy who filed the dismissed lawsuit that I mentioned in the second paragraph of this piece. Wagoner allegedly told Reisfar that Pearson was on the Executive Directors performance review committee, along with Wagoner and former Chair Adam Mayor. Wagoner quit the committee along with Mayor. Pearson apparently gave Burke a stellar review.

Reisfar also says he spoke with TV Water Commissioner Jim Doan, who told him that he was unaware of Pearson's role as Washington County Lib Party Chair. I spoke today with Todd Heidgerken, the press liason for the Commission, who said that Burke disclosed Pearson as a member of the Libertarian Party, but that he wasn't sure if Burke or Pearson had spoken more indepth about Pearson's various party roles. Doan also allegedly told Reisfar that he was further unaware of Pearson's Review Cmte job and that Pearson helped determine Burke's LPO compensation package.

Heidgerken explained that the Board met the requirements of advertising for the position, reviewing the applications and holding deliberations--all within public meetings. He noted that Pearson had been a member of the TV Water Board budget committee and that the Board was looking for someone with financial expertise to put into this seat. Pearson won the seat on a 4-0 vote.

There is apparently a complaint filed with Oregon Standards and Practices against either the LPO or Burke--I havent' determined which--still investigating that angle. There are also more sexual harassment allegations having to do with the Libertarian Party as well as mishandling of funds by Burke for weird business stuff--which I'm also still looking into.

I've left several messages both on voice mail and email for Burke, he has so far not responded. I've also attempted to contact Bruce Knight--who hasn't responded either.

Stay tuned.