AFT-Oregon files lawsuit against Sizemore's OTU

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Oregon has filed a $224,500 civil lawsuit against Oregon Taxpayers United (OTU) alleging fraud and racketeering.

OTU's director is Bill Sizemore.

The union alleges that OTU, its educational foundation, its political action committee, and 10 John Does violated the Oregon Racketeer Influence and Corruptions Act (RICO) by fraudulently gathering signatures for sponsorship of petitions - specifically Measure 59 from the 1998 general election and Measures 91, 92 and 98 from last November's election. Three of the measures attempted to restrict public employee unions from collecting dues using payroll deduction. A fourth (Measure 91) related to the deductibility of income taxes.

The civil lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court Aug. 31, alleges that many of the signatures were copied by signature gatherers from one petition sheet to another and that many of the signatures were from fictitious people or were directly forged.

One OTU employee was recently convicted of forging signatures, criminal acts which were done in furthering the business of OTU, the union said.

"OTU activities have aimed to harm our members and their issues. Plus, taxpayer resources are tied up in appeals on his (Sizemore's) past measures, resources that could have been going to fix our roads, insure our children and take care of our seniors," said Richard Schwarz, executive director of AFT-Oregon.

Schwarz said Sizemore and his groups, in their fundraising communications and statements to the media, make unions, and those representing public employees specifically, their targets. "They boast of their aim to use the initiative process to force us to spend our money to defeat Measures such as 92 and 98 instead of being able to work on our members' issues," he said.

AFT-Oregon said it spent $224,500 on the campaigns to defeat the ballot measures.

Because it is a RICO complaint, if victorious the union could receive treble damages and the defendant would be required to pay attorney fees.

A similar lawsuit, this one seeking $2.25 million, was filed last December by the Oregon Education Association. Gene Mechanic, a partner at the Portland law firm of Goldberg, Mechanic, Stuart and Gibson, is representing AFT Oregon.

September 7, 2001 issue

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