PRESS RELEASE: Bill Sizemore, executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United, said today that he was appalled at the spin the teachers unions placed on the Oregon Court of Appeals decision handed down yesterday in the case of the OEA and AFT vs. Oregon Taxpayers United.
“It is unbelievable that the unions are claiming victory,” Sizemore said. Sizemore explained that one of the three judges on the panel concluded that there was no legal basis for the lawsuit against either Oregon Taxpayers United PAC or the Oregon Taxpayers United Education Foundation. This judge said he would not have allowed any monetary damages. The other two judges said there was no legal basis for the union claim against the Oregon Taxpayers United PAC for filing allegedly false Contribution and Expenditure Reports. Those two judges left in place the claim against the foundation for filing inaccurate tax returns.
The court also removed the restrictions on the PAC’s political activities, which was the one thing the unions wanted most. The court also designated the OTU PAC as the prevailing party, which means it can file a claim for attorney fees.
Here’s what the decision means:
1. Oregon Taxpayers United PAC no longer owes the teachers union $3.4 million for filing allegedly false Contribution and Expenditure Reports and now can raise money and put measures on the ballot. OTU-PAC continues to owe the unions several hundred thousand dollars for submitting 14 forged signatures on measures 92 and 98. (This is in spite of the fact that OTU had all of those signatures checked by Clackamas County Elections before we submitted them and every one of them was officially certified as genuine.)
2. The judgment against Bill Sizemore personally will be vacated, because he was only held liable for the judgment against the PAC, not the foundation. Now that the judgment against the PAC has been overturned, Sizemore doesn’t owe the unions anything.
3. The OEA and AFT will be required to refund to Sizemore approximately $17,000 they seized when he sold a house last year.
4. The unions still have a multi-million million judgment against the Oregon Taxpayers United Education Foundation, which has been defunct for more than three years. The foundation will appeal this judgment to the Oregon Supreme Court and if necessary to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“How the unions can claim this a victory for them is beyond me,” Sizemore said. “They won on part and we won part, and I won on the only count that affected me personally,” he said. Sizemore added that he expects the unions to sue him again personally, perhaps over and over. “Last year, the unions offered to forget the $4 million judgment they have against me, if I would drop my appeal and agree to stay out of politics for fifteen years,” Sizemore said. “That makes it pretty clear what they were really after. All they want is to get me of politics. They will sue me again to try to regain the leverage they lost this week in the Court of Appeals,” he said.
Sizemore said the appeals court erred when they left in place the judgment against the foundation. In June of this year, in a case with similar issues as this case, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that this kind of lawsuit is an abuse of RICO laws and should not be allowed. “We will have to appeal this decision further up the ladder in an effort to get the entire judgment overturned. Right now, I just want to celebrate the fact that I don’t owe the teachers union any money, but instead they owe me,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore said the sad thing about this entire case is the way he was railroaded in Multnomah County Circuit Court. The first thing the union attorneys did was kick all of the Republicans out of the jury pool, leaving us a jury of 14 Democrats and one Green Party member. Then the judge, Judge Jerome LaBarre, concealed for the entire three years that he presided over the case the fact that his son is a member and activist in the same union that was suing us in his court. (The judge’s son is now a teachers union president.)
“For three years, Judge Jerome LaBarre concealed from everyone the fact that he had a conflict of interest that should have led him to recuse himself from the case,” Sizemore said. “Bottom line is we were railroaded by a judge that was less than forthright in his handling of a case that should never even have gone to trial,” he added.
If the case had been filed in federal court, everything LaBarre did would have been voided due to his conflict of interest. Oregon laws allow judges to have conflicts of interest that federal judges are not allowed. Too bad for us.