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Forest Grove lawyer accused of mistreatment of mother-in-law

Police say Bob Browning didn't pay bills for care of relative

Bob Browning, a prominent Forest Grove attorney, was charged with seven counts of criminal mistreatment, a felony, late Friday following a 14-month investigation into his management of the finances of his mother-in-law.

Forest Grove Police say Browning oversaw misappropriation of funds that led to a $50,000 outstanding bill at the Forest Grove nursing facility that Laura B. Sullivan, Browning's mother-in-law, lived at. Sullivan died in August.

Browning told the News-Times on Saturday that he will challenge the charges in court.

'While I do expect the case to [go to] trial, I also expect to be exonerated,' said Browning, who is out on bail. On the advice of his lawyer, he said cannot comment further.

During the course of the investigation into Browning's office, police say they found evidence that Amy Moore, who worked at Browning's law firm, used a credit card belonging to a deceased client of Browning's to pay for a Hawaiian vacation, the boarding of a pet, and cell phone bills.

Capt. Mike Herb, spokesman for the Forest Grove Police Department said the suspect transactions occurred in June and July of 2010, a year after the client had died.

Moore was charged late Friday with identity theft and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Herb said police haven't found any evidence that shows a linkage between the two cases.

The Oregon Department of Justice will prosecute the case to diminish the appearance of any conflict of interest, Herb said.

Police began the investigation in July 2011 following a referral of information from Adult Protection Services.

Browning is a Forest Grove native who has been very active in civic affairs. Before getting his law degree, he was involved in construction and real estate consulting, eventually serving as the city's first planning director and, later, running unsuccessfully for the city council.

After getting his law degree from Lewis and Clark College he set up a law practice in Forest Grove, where he's promoted his firm as specializing in real estate and business transactions, commercial landlord-tenant contracts, wills and trusts, estate planning and durable powers of attorney.

He's served many years as the municipal judge in Gaston and, until recently, North Plains.

Browning will go before the Gaston city council Wednesday night to see if the city will retain him, letting a temporary judge hear cases while he pleads his case at the county.

'Assuming that innocent until proven guilty is still the law of the land, I am asking that I continue to be named as judge,' Browning said Tuesday.

Rick Lorenz, Gaston mayor, didn't return a call Tuesday before the News-Times went to press.

Browning said he earns $120 an hour in court fees hearing cases involving traffic infractions for the city. The hourly rate is a third of Browning's normal rate, he said.

Browning resigned from his position in North Plains in January. He said in a letter dated at the time that a complaint accusing him of the financial elder abuse of his mother filed by a family member would be a distraction. Browning said that complaint, initiated by his brother, is unrelated to the criminal investigation that led to his arrest.

Sullivan was the mother of Browning's first wife, Judy Browning, who died in May 2006, at the age of 60. According to an obituary that appeared in the News-Times, her father and only sibling, a younger brother, had preceded her in death.