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A non-partisan political action committee filed a complaint on Monday with the Secretary of State’s office saying Clackamas County should not have submitted an explanatory statement for May 21 ballot with language that a judge had already ruled out.

Repeating a phrase that Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Deanne L. Darling used on March 19, Positively Clackamas wrote the official explanation for Measure 3-424 is “misleading and inaccurate” because it gives voters the belief that their vote could have an impact on Clackamas County’s participation in the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project now under construction. (See previous story, “Judge says Clackamas County's light-rail ballot title needs work”). County voters previously approved Ballot Measure 3-401 last September to require a vote before the county can commit resources to a rail project.

Positively Clackamas co-founder Eleanore Hunter noted her group supports the right to vote, but argued that Darling’s ruling showed that the original measure does not apply retroactively. Therefore, Hunter pointed out that the county shouldn’t write to voters that May’s Measure 3-424 is “in accordance with” or “required by Measure 3-401,” as described in the county’s submitted explanatory statement.

“The county should be honest with the voters and tell them that their vote is only advisory, and not binding,” Hunter said. “It’s wrong to make the voters believe otherwise.”

In response to the ruling, County Chairman John Ludlow issued a statement on April 2 saying, “We are pleased that Judge Darling ruled that Clackamas County voters — and not the courts — are entitled to consider questions related to the sale of land for Portland Milwaukie Light Rail.”

The complaint named Ludlow, the Board of County Commissioners and County Strategic Policy Administrator Dan Chandler, who submitted the statement. On March 21, two days after Judge Darling’s ruling, Chandler submitted the county’s ballot-measure explanation saying, “approval of this measure would constitute approval by the voters of an authorizing ordinance authorizing the following four items” involving light-rail commitments with TriMet made in 2010 and 2012.

In a contractual obligation signed in 2012, Clackamas County committed to $1.2 million in road and signal construction related to the Portland-Milwaukie light-rail line. Commissioners voted 3-2 on Feb. 21 to ask voters whether they approve of selling TriMet a couple of small parcels needed for the line and whether county officials should be “allowing TriMet to conduct operations on and maintain portions of county roads and sidewalks” used by light-rail facilities, as mandated by the agreements.

On Monday, Chandler said that the county would need some more time to review the complaint before commenting.

Meanwhile, TriMet sued Clackamas County last month claiming that a judge needs to intervene in the county’s delays of property sales and its failure to meet of other contractual obligations with deadlines last year (“TriMet sues Clackamas County over light-rail delays,” March 7).

Ludlow countered that “Clackamas County is not presently in breach or default” of its contractual obligations to TriMet.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, that TriMet is employing heavy-handed tactics to thwart the will of the citizens of Clackamas County and the public whom TriMet serves.” he said. “Clackamas County will aggressively defend this assault on our county ordinance and we look forward to receiving the legal clarity the court will no doubt provide in this matter.”

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