June 6, 2008 Volume 109 Number 11

Sizemore held in contempt of court

A Multnomah County judge held anti-union ballot measure activist Bill Sizemore in contempt of court May 27 for willfully violating a 2003 court order. The court order came after a lawsuit filed in 2000 by the Oregon Education Association and American Federation of Teachers-Oregon.

In that suit, after a two-week trial, a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury found two Sizemore-led organizations guilty of a pattern of fraud and forgery to get initiatives on the ballot that were intended to cause financial harm to the unions. The judge in the case, Jerome LaBarre, ordered $2.5 million in damages. When Sizemore tried to evade the verdict by creating new organizations, LaBarre issued an order that, among other things, barred Sizemore from raising and spending money for new political groups until the court-awarded damages were paid.

But Sizemore didn’t pay, and in 2006, he raised and spent money for a new initiative campaign, which didn’t make it to the ballot. The unions asked that he be held in contempt of court for that.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Janice Wilson rejected Sizemore’s argument that he didn’t understand the court order, and ruled that he “chose to ignore” it.

“Mr. Sizemore is a very bright man,” Judge Wilson said. “He knew that the words [of the court order] meant something.”

Jail, the judge declared, wouldn’t be appropriate or necessary. But the judge is ordering that Sizemore pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees for pursuing the contempt of court case, which could be tens of thousands of dollars. And Wilson is adding the amount Sizemore raised — about $35,500 — to the amount he still owes the unions. That’s about $500,000. [An appeals court reduced the earlier award to $500,000.]

“This is what we have to do to get compliance with the jury award and the injunction,” said AFT-Oregon Executive Director Richard Schwarz. “Sizemore is very good at proposing laws for everyone else, but when it comes to laws that apply to him he thinks he should be immune.”

The decision is the latest in a series of court orders against Sizemore’s circumvention of the courts. In February, attorneys for OEA and AFT-Oregon filed a fourth contempt of court charge, presenting evidence that Sizemore fraudulently used a sham charitable organization to funnel money into his political activities — which he was barred from doing by LaBarre’s order.

On May 27, Judge Wilson also gave plaintiffs attorneys the right to subpoena documents and testimony from Sizemore and his wife to gather more information about the Nevada shell organization.

Parts of LaBarre’s order expire July 25, including a prohibition against Sizemore using funds from charitable non-profits for political causes. Hartman said plaintiffs will ask the court to extend the order another five years.

“There hasn’t been much compliance so far,” Hartman said, “so we’d like to give Bill another chance to comply.”

Meanwhile, the original case is still on appeal before the Oregon Supreme Court, which heard from both sides last September but has yet to make a decision.


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