UPDATE: State hearing looms as candidate blasts commissioner's attempt to 'inherit the mayor's office'

City Commissioner Sam Adams has joined a parade of mayoral candidates challenging Sho Dozono's use of public funds for his campaign.

Adams filed late Wednesday afternoon the latest challenge to city Auditor Gary Blackmer's decision allowing Dozono access to public funds to challenge Adams and others for the mayor's office in the May 20 primary election.

Other mayoral candidates Beryl McNair, Craig Gier and Bruce Broussard filed similar challenges with the city auditor's office Monday and Tuesday.

A state administrative law judge will hold a hearing on the challenges Monday morning, March 17, in Tualatin. The hearing is at 9 a.m. in the Office of Adminstrative Hearings, 7995 S.W. Mohawk St.

Candidates who filed the challenges will have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit exhibits and lists of witnesses they plan to call during the hearing.

Adams' challenge will be consolidated with the others for the hearing.

Dozono's campaign responded Wednesday, saying Adams had 'stooped to political gamesmanship in an attempt to avoid discussing the important issues facing our city.'

Amie Abbott, Dozono's campaign manager, said the 11th-hour appeal 'should make people ask, 'What is Sam afraid of?' '

'He seems to believe that by eliminating Sho as the opponent, he will inherit the mayor's office,' Abbott said. 'It is arrogant of him to think that he deserves this position without having to prove to the community why he is qualified.'

Abbott also said the Dozono campaign expected to be exonerated in Monday's hearing.

'I am confident that the Oregon state administrative law judge will confirm the decision that the city Auditor already made twice,' said Abbott.

Denied involvement

The decision to certify Dozono for public campaign funds was made by Blackmer March 5, who oversees the program.

Dozono also suggested that Adams was involved in appeals by the other candidates, citing contacts about the issue between the auditor's office and Adams' campaign manager Jennifer Yocom.

'Jennifer Yocom, from Sam Adams' campaign, has made repeated requests for information from the auditor's office about the appeals process,' he said. 'Once again I am disappointed that my opponent doesn't want to focus on the mayor's race.'

Yocom, however, denied any involvement in the development.

'We're not behind these appeals,' she said.

On Wednesday evening, Yocom again blasted Dozono's allegations, calling the situation 'political gamesmanship.'

'Mr. Dozono's campaign can try to distract people all they want by continuing to make utterly false statements, but their problems are of their own making,' she said.

The appeals will result in the first such hearing scheduled since the city approved its public campaign financing system. Under the system, a mayoral candidate can be granted up to $192,500 in public funds to run a campaign.

McNair, Gier and Broussard are two of 11 people who have filed to replace Mayor Tom Potter. Besides the best-known candidates Adams and Dozono, other candidates include Kyle Burris, Steven Entwisle, Bob Leonard Forthan, Lew Humble, Jeff Taylor and James B. Lee.

In-kind contribution

Critics have questioned Blackmer's certification of Dozono for the public financing system because of a poll conducted on the mayor's race before Dozono declared his candidacy for the office.

Portland lobbyist Len Bergstein commissioned the poll, which compared how Dozono would do against Adams in the race. Although Bergstein is advising Dozono, he said he commissioned the poll before Dozono decided to enter the race. Bergstein also said he did not tell Dozono about the poll in advance, but shared the results with him.

After the poll became controversial, Dozono reported the cost of it - $27,295 - as an in-kind contribution to his campaign. Blackmer then ruled Dozono could not legally pay for the poll, and it was re-reported as being an in-kind contribution from Begstein's firm, Northwest Strategies.

Wrote Gier: 'I believe that Sho Dozono violated public financing laws by not claiming his poll that was dated December 21, 2007. The poll which cost $27,295 violates in kind contribution limits.'

Gier added that, 'In kind contributions are capped at $12,000 for publicly financed candidates.'

Blackmer earlier ruled that the poll was conducted prior to Dozono's candidacy, and therefore did not violate the city's public funding rules.

In his challenge, Adams wrote that the poll went far beyond deciding whether Dozono would be a viable candidate.

'Given the known facts - the extraordinary cost of the poll, the fact that it was commissioned by the Dozono campaign's principal political advisor and consultant, and that it was conducted by the same research firm that is advising the campaign - there is serious reason for the hearing officer to question whether the poll results were limited to providing information to 'test viability,' ' wrote Adams in the challenge.

Reporters Jim Redden and Kevin Harden contributed to this story.

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