Press release from candidate Marc Lucca (HD17):
CANDIDATE CALLS FOR LEGISLATIVE PANEL
TO INVESTIGATE GOVERNMENT ABUSE OF POWER
Decries Government Inaction Leading to “Disturbing Corruption”
STAYTON — Marc Lucca, candidate for Oregon House of Representatives District 17, released his plan today to combat what the Oregonian referred to as “disturbing corruption” within Oregon government. The proposal includes convening a “Government Accountability Project,” a bipartisan legislative panel with equal representation from both political parties and both chambers of the State Legislature.
“When I ran for the appointment to the House in January,” Lucca said, “the other candidates in the race dismissed my claims of corruption in Salem government and tried to paint me as being outside the “˜mainstream.’ If sticking our heads in the sand like ostriches represents the mainstream, I am happy to stand outside it.” He added, “the Oregon Youth Authority scandal the Oregonian reported on yesterday is one of the specific examples I was referring to, but it is only one example.”
Lucca has been following the progression of the investigation into corruption at the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) in recent months after being contacted by whistleblowers within the agency who were concerned about the threat OYA’s culture poses to youths in their care. The group was familiar with Lucca as a result of his years of experience working on problems within Oregon’s government, including his experience working alongside former Representative Jim Thompson (R-Dallas). Thompson helped set up a similar panel to investigate abuses within the Department of Human Services. The panel’s work led to the passage of the Foster Parent’s Bill of Rights in the 2005 legislative session.
Lucca was asked by the whistleblowers to follow the investigation but allow it to continue unaided as long as it was progressing. With the allegations coming to light publicly in Wednesday’s Oregonian, he is able to release his plan to deal with the culture of corruption within the agency and state government at large.
“If elected this year, immediately after taking office, I will convene a bipartisan legislative panel, with equal representation from both parties, to uncover the degree of abuse within this agency,” he said. “And if the interests of justice are best served by doing so, I will gladly hand the gavel over to a legislator with more tenure, whether Republican or a Democrat committed to seeking real change in government culture.”
According to Lucca, the panel will make specific recommendations to the executive branch
and the Legislature regarding the Youth Authority, then move on to other agencies as the evidence may lead. “This kind of investigation is likely to attract more allegations from other agencies or private citizens,” he explained, “so it is probable the panel will find other issues that need to be dealt with. Just today, in fact, the House Republican Caucus detailed a history of a pattern of corruption and mismanagement within state agencies, so this isn’t an isolated incident. House Republicans are right on in their call for a Legislative Audits Office to combat and prevent abuse of public money. But we have to deal with the human side as well, like promotions and retaliations or abuse of children in state care, and that is why I believe we need this Government Accountability Project as well.”
If the panel’s scope expands beyond the OYA, according to Lucca, it will allow the project to “bring some accountability to Oregon Government, reporting to the people of Oregon regularly on what is being done to combat these outrageous bureaucratic failures.”
Said former Representative Jim Thompson, who is currently running again in neighboring House District 23, “Marc has asked me if I would help lead this panel to uncover and correct the abuses in our state government. If elected, I would be honored to help him with this critical mission. I’ve spent a number of years reforming the way our state treats these vulnerable kids in agencies like the Youth Authority and Department of Human Services. It’s past time we fixed this problem for the good of both these vulnerable kids and the Oregon taxpayer.”
Lucca agreed, noting, “in my 6 years of working in and around the state capitol, I have seen Oregonians repeatedly make similar claims of abuse of power and corruption in Oregon government. And yet, the allegations keep getting token attention, and they keep resurfacing. It is time the Legislature dealt with this systemic problem and did so in a serious manner. It is important that there is equal representation of the parties in this effort, because this isn’t a question of right versus left, it’s right versus wrong.”
At the very least, said Lucca, Governor Kulongoski should call for an independent investigation into the way OYA Director Robert Jester and Deputy Director Phil Lemman have handled the allegations of corruption, and whether they have been participants in moving employees or otherwise attempting to cover up misdeeds. He called for both administrators to be relieved of duties related to the investigation, and be replaced by someone with a record of seeking accountability and reform within the agency. Someone, Lucca said, “who won’t tolerate the kind of graft that has been alleged in the Youth Authority, because there are significant charges that the administration has at best ignored the evidence of corruption in the agency, and at worst has participated in covering it up.”
“It is important to act now,” Lucca added, “because the Youth Authority is charged with the care of Oregon’s most vulnerable kids. In the short term, we need to know they are safe. In the long term, we need to know they are going to remain safe. And we need to hold state bureaucrats accountable for how they are spending taxpayer money.”
Lucca is running for State Representative in the Republican Primary for District 17. District 17 covers the communities of Stayton, Sublimity, Scio, Sweet Home, Lebanon, Mill City, Gates, Lyons, Detroit, and Idanha. He has been endorsed by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Crime Victims United, the Conservative Majority Project, and a number of community leaders and former legislators.