Monday, March 26, 2007

Purgatory. LPO style.

Little did I know that when I stepped into the brouhaha between factions of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, that I would find myself in a kind of purgatory. Emails, phone calls and meetings from various folks associated with the LPO mess have permeated my existence lately. And its been like trying to wade through a yellow jackets' nest.

The most contentious of the issues contributing to the purgatory is a Gmail chat that I originally characterized as "alleged", but it has in fact been confirmed by Richard Burke himself. The chat did take place and the copy I previously posted is correct, if incomplete.

The chat shows LPO Executive Director Richard Burke attempting to gain information from the national Libertarian Party through this chat. Burke says that he in fact was doing just that. He also stated that he was entitled to the information and provided pages of an LP manual to back up his assertion. Unfortunately, the national LP isn't eager to call me back to confirm that these are legitimate, so I can't verify. It looks however like Burke is entitled to the information. However, he didn't go through the appropriate channels to obtain it, as stated in the manual. Burke says he was trying to refute charges against him and couldn't wait for the manual's stated time period. So he attempted an end-run around the national LP structure to get it from a worker.

The chat also contains some sexual content, which Burke has claimed is cybersex "satire". To buffet this claim, Burke provided me with a third page of the Gmail chat, which he believes demonstrates that the sex chat wasn't at all serious (Warning: the chat contains some non-explicit sexual content that some might find offensive). In context, I don't necessarily agree that its completely satirical--but readers can make that determination for themselves by reading it.

As I understand it, there is a fourth page to the chat--but neither my original source nor Burke offered it to me. Burke says it isn't relevant to the charges against him.

No doubt this will be a catalyst for another round of "Anonymous" commentors, supporting Burke. Its curious how those who comment here that don't support Burke leave a name..while those who support him continue to be "Anonymous"..but I digress.

Burke also made it very clear to me that he doesn't do chat at while at work. Oddly, the date/time stamp of the Gmail chat says Thursday, December 14 at 2:38PM. While its plausible that Burke wasn't at work in the middle of the week during the middle of the day, it doesn't seem likely.

A second charge leveled against Burke has to do with the appointment of Stephen Pearson to the Tualatin Valley Water District, which you can read background for here. Burke is a TVWD commissioner. Burke says no conflict of interest occured on his part because the LPO oversight board in which Pearson conducted a job performance review of Burke no longer
existed when Pearson was being considered for the position.

That may be, but the commissioners who appointed Pearson didn't know that he'd conducted oversight of Burke in his job. Burke also claimed that the water commissioners knew well in advance that Pearson was the Chair of the Washington County Libertarian Party. But TVWD Commissioner Jim Duggan said he knew of neither when Pearson applied and was subsequently appointed. Duggan said that he knew Burke and Pearson were "well acquainted", but that was all. Duggan said that it wouldn't have changed his vote, but that he would not be in favor of Pearson holding a job performance review position over Burke at the same time they served together on the water board.

Another issue for Burke appears to be a trip he took to the Ukraine last year. Burke told me that the trip was approximately from August 31-September 13, 2006. He characterized the trip to me as a "vacation". But Burke mentioned the trip to at least one other person as a "privately funded tour of water facilities in Ukraine." While certainly not illegal (and some could argue not necessarily unethical) it does seem to add fuel to the fire that Burke is dishonest.

Further, I could find no evidence of a water conference taking place in the Ukraine in July, August or September. There was an international water conference in Kiev, Ukraine that took place in October. Now its entirely possible that Kiev is a big host for water conferences--and that every few months they host one. But again, doesn't seem likely.

There is also the matter of a forgery charge sent to the SOS Elections Division by LPO member Wes Wagner. Burke says that he indeed affixed the party treasurer's signature on to official documents sent to the SOS office, but he did so because the documents would have been late otherwise.

The SOS replied to Wagner earlier this month, saying that forgery is outside of the purview of the Elections Division. For the SOS, the matter is considered closed.

However, I asked Becky Miller (former Sizemore C&E guru--who really understands how this works) about this activity. Becky said, "In the era of fax machines, this notion is ridiculous on its face. You could fax the signature page to the treasurer and get it signed, then fax it back and it would be accepted by the SOS. I would have to wonder if they're telling the truth that the treasurer "forgot" to sign it. Maybe the treasurer didn't actually prepare it or maybe he/she did, but then it was altered without his/her knowledge and the new report didn't have his/her signature."

There is also an issue surrounding Burke's use of the LPO debit card in order to pay for gas and meals. Burke says he is contracted by the LPO to be a political consultant as well as their Executive Director. His contract allows him to charge the Party 43 cents per mile. A check register of the LPOs official checking account for September 05-September 06 shows about a weekly gasoline charge (which looks like a filling of a tank) as well as various meals whose charge range from around $5 up to about $8. That looks to me like a meal for just one person--rather than paying for a lunch meeting--which is what Burke's contract apparently also allows.

When complaints were made to the LPO State Committee, the Committee changed the rules to allow Burke to use the card for meals and gas--outside what his contract states. Those who agreed to this change appear to be the group most loyal to Burke, and that would certainly be their call. But it does seem odd that they'd remove this easy oversight of their party funds. Requiring a contracted person to justify their mileage and expenses seems pretty basic to me. Allowing Burke to use their debit card without that justification seems outside of what most groups would allow.

To boil this down to its essence, I can't find anything that Richard Burke has done that's prosecutable. I highly doubt any DA would find reason to lock him up over these series of charges. But I do see where those who have a problem with him find him unscrupulous, unsavory and essentially dishonest. I can't imagine a party leader with the Democrats or Republicans being able to withstand such conduct.

Incidentally, this will hopefully be my last entry on this topic. The research has been exhausting and having to sift through the "he said/she said" of material is utterly ridiculous. I would imagine the screeches of "yellow journalism" and other such synonyms will find their way to comments--it is what it is.

This is as an objective a look at this situation as I think anyone without ties to either "faction" can give. Chips will fall where they may.

***FYI: Any highlighting or writing that you see on documents linked here weren't done by me. They were handed over to me and I scanned them exactly as you see them***