Perennial union foe Bill Sizemore filed bankruptcy April 9, listing assets of $10,796 and debts of $21 million — most of it to the Oregon Education Association (OEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in a set of court cases that have been under way since 2000.
In 2002, a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury found that two groups controlled by Sizemore engaged in a pattern of racketeering, having used fraud and forgery to place two anti-union measures on the 2000 ballot. A judge ordered the groups to pay $2.5 million in damages to the unions, and later found Sizemore personally liable. The amount was later reduced on appeal.
In 2009, OEA and AFT filed a new lawsuit seeking $18 million in damages, charging that Sizemore and his longtime funder, Nevada millionaire Loren Parks, hid and misused money funneled through Sizemore’s new group to qualify a new set of 2008 ballot measures, all of which failed at the polls.
Sizemore told the Oregonian that his bankruptcy filing was part of a strategy to avoid potential debts from the unions’ lawsuits.
“Hopefully I can draw a line and make this go away,” Sizemore told reporter Jeff Mapes.
Sizemore declared bankruptcy once before: In 1987 a court discharged $358,000 when he liquidated his carpet business. At the time of his 1998 run for governor, he also had about $795,000 in debt for a defunct toy business, most of it owed to members of his church and softball league who had loaned him money.
But a person whose debts are the result of fraud can have a hard time qualifying for bankruptcy protection, Oregon AFSCME attorney Jennifer Chapman said.
In 2011, Sizemore pled guilty to three felony charges of tax evasion and spent 18 days in Marion County Jail. He previously spent a night in Multnomah County Jail in 2008 for contempt of court, after he refused a judge’s repeated orders to file tax forms for a group he set up.
In the current bankruptcy filing, he also listed $10,500 owed to the Oregon Department of Revenue and $41,000 to the IRS.