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Bernard cleared of ethics charges

Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard was cleared last week of charges that he stood to benefit from light rail as a local property owner.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted unanimously on Friday to drop its investigation.

Calling the review “a waste of taxpayer money,” Bernard said that the commission took only 15 seconds to dismiss the complaint filed by Mack Woods. After Woods had said Bernard failed to recuse himself from county dealings over the light-rail project where he stood to gain personally, Bernard pointed out that he didn’t unilaterally make a decision to choose a line through that part of Milwaukie.

“I’m a member of a large class of people who will be affected by light rail, and as mayor (of Milwaukie) I did not have the ability to lift light rail up and put it near my property—it was a regional decision,” Bernard said.

Milwaukie City Council voted in 2004 to allow Bernard to vote on light rail after he declared a potential conflict of interest. In June, county commissioners voted to cover Bernard’s legal costs up to $5,000.

“These kind of complaints can arise because someone doesn’t like what we’re doing,” Bernard said. “It’s a policy to pay the $5,000 that we’ve done before, and it’s a policy that I think it is important, because these false complaints will continue as long as light rail is on the table.”

Bernard abstained when commissioners voted 3-1 on Aug. 22 to settle with TriMet on its previous $25 million committment for the light-rail project. He said he would have voted for the settlement with TriMet if he hadn’t heard three votes in favor.

Bernard said he found out this spring that TriMet will require an easement of up to two years to raise the sidewalk a foot in front of Bernard’s Garage.

“I was surprised to find out, and they only knew after doing 80 percent engineering,” Bernard said.

Former Oregon City Commissioner Dan Holladay filed a recall petition last month against Bernard. Holladay made some adjustments to the petition after making accusations about Bernard’s wife who works as the county’s tourism director. Bernard had filed a complaint with Secretary of State Kate Brown and says the petition still contains false accusations.

“We’re not done going after demonstratively incorrect statements in Holladay’s petition,” Bernard said. “If the signatures are collected, then it will be on the special election ballot wasting more voters’ money.”