Former Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Oregon Department of Justice after a yearlong investigation into allegations of theft, official misconduct and election law violations.
The allegations were related to possible misuse of funds from a special account set up under the Association of Oregon Counties for an election campaign for a little known organization known as Western Interstate Region.
"To conclude, we have determined that there is insufficient evidence to support any criminal charges against Mr. Breidenthal regarding the allegations raised by (former) Sheriff (Corey) Falls and Auditor (Eric) Spivak," according to a March 14 letter to Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert from Michael Slauson, chief counsel for the Department of Justice.
Slauson also said that the DOJ investigation only looked at whether crimes were committed, but did not conduct any investigation into civil or administrative complaints against Breidenthal.
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission also has looked at allegations raised by the county auditor against Breidenthal.
"The OGEC has opened a case based on the auditor's allegations but has stayed its investigation pending the outcome of the criminal review," Slauson wrote.
The DOJ investigation determined that funds in an account established by the AOC were not owned by AOC, Mike McArthur, AOC executive director, told the DOJ.
"Moreover, AOC did not exercise meaningful control over Mr. Breidenthal's use of funds in the account," Slauson stated in his letter.
According to Slauson, Breidenthal's use of some of the funds in the account appeared unrelated to the account's purpose, which was to help him get elected to a position on the Western Interstate Region, an AOC-related advocacy group for public policy issues in the West.
Slauson said the investigation found that some of the payments made by Breidenthal out of the account appeared unrelated to the WIR campaign, such as paying dues to the local Rotary Club and a campaign contribution to a local commissioner.
"We considered whether the use of the funds for purposes other than the WIR campaign constituted theft or other related charges," Slauson wrote.
However, since Breidenthal owned the funds in the account, Slauson stated there is insufficient evidence to file criminal charges.