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Voters to decide if clerk's office is well run

Challenger David Robinson says he hopes to improve the office's image in light of controversies -

U.S. Navy Commander David Robinson thinks he has a good shot at knocking County Clerk Sherry Hall out of the seat she’s held since 2003.

County Clerk Sherry Hall.“I don’t really have to go out and remind people why it’s time for a change,” says the West Linn resident, detailing the controversies that have occurred under Hall’s watch: a 2012 temporary employee who was caught tampering with ballots; misprinted ballots in 2010 leading to an expensive reprint; a typo last spring listing the “Democrat Party” instead of the “Democratic Party”; and a Sept. 29 accusation from Clackamas County Democrats that all marriage licenses given in the county since same-sex marriage became legal in May might be invalid because Hall has chosen to sign them with a stamp instead of a signature.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - County clerk challenger David Robinson.

Hall feels she has been badly treated in the media because of the incidents and declined to talk on the record about the race except through email. Though Hall is often described as a Tea Party Republican, she says politics have no place in the nonpartisan office.

“Endorsements are often viewed as a political statement by those who are providing or receiving them. Therefore, I don’t give out or accept endorsements,” Hall writes. “I believe it’s important to keep politics out of the Clerk’s office in order to maintain the integrity of the office and to protect the voter’s vote. I believe the highlight, over this past 12 years, is the stamp of approval from Clackamas County voters who have elected me.”

Campaign filings with the secretary of state’s office show the Gladstone resident has not received nor spent any campaign money since Aug. 26, 2010. Hall clarified that she does not collect nor spend more than $3,500 per calendar year in campaign financing and, having completed a Certificate of Limited Contributions form, is therefore is not required to report donations and expenditures to the Secretary of State's Office.

Robinson describes his politics as progressive and has support among Democratic and left-leaning candidates such as State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, County Commissioner Jim Bernard and State Reps Shemia Fagan (D-District 51), Jeff Reardon (D-District 48) and Brent Barton (D-District 40).

Robinson says his top priority as county clerk would be “fixing the problems that have plagued the election office,” “restoring public image and integrity of the office,” and “improving morale of the people working in the office.”

As a naval commander, Robinson has managed humanitarian operations from the Horn of Africa to the Philippines, as well as directing a public works department in San Diego that served several military bases with a budget of $250 million and a staff of 250.

“One thing that I have really come to learn as I have moved into organizations is to take a little bit of time to learn and listen to the people that are in the jobs ... before jumping in and saying: ‘I’m going to do this, this and this,’” Robinson says.

Fiscal responsibility

The county clerk oversees five departments: administration, elections, recording, board of property tax appeals and records management. There are 19 full-time staffers and between 40 and 100 temporary elections workers at an annual budget of $3.6 million.

Hall argues that she has managed the office responsibly and thriftily, returning between $360,000 and $500,000 to the county’s general fund over the last four fiscal years. She also led an election integrity committee that implemented additional security and training methods after the 2012 ballot tampering incident.

Hall’s top goal for the coming term would be to acquire an “automated ballot acceptance system,” which she claims will speed the elections process and reduce the dependence on manpower.

She also plans to increase automation in the recording department and continue to convert documents to digital from in the records management department. The Museum of the Oregon Territory recently asked the clerk for help in managing its archive of 174 canvas books of county records.

When asked what her favorite or most challenging aspects of the job were, Hall simply replied: “Elections.”