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Official who bent rules to pay fine.

Byline: SUSAN PALMER The Register-Guard

Eugene city recorder Kate Fieland must pay a $100 fine for violating Oregon elections law, the state Elections Division announced Friday.

Fieland allowed different filing standards for City Council candidates. She said she relaxed the rules concerning signature gathering after it was apparent that candidates were confused about the sequence for filing election forms.

In a letter to Fieland, the Elections Division called the violations "egregious." If state rules had allowed a more severe penalty, she would have received it, the letter said.

Fieland said she wasn't surprised by the decision and won't request a hearing to contest it.

In the future, there will be no bending of the rules, she said. "I will be administering the procedures to the letter of the law without any flexibility," she said.

For Tuesday's primary, she had allowed four council candidates to use nominating signatures they had gathered before they filed notice to run. And she initially disqualified another candidate who didn't submit enough valid nominating signatures.

Two candidates, Jim Hale and Kurt Thelen, filed a complaint with the state division as well as a lawsuit in Lane County Circuit Court.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in April, saying Hale and Thelen suffered no loss of legal rights from possible election law violations.

Elections Division Director John Lindback said complaints against elections officials are fairly rare.

Instead, most complaints concern whether candidates are telling the truth and whether public employees running for office are using public resources to aid their campaigns, he said.

During statewide elections, the Elections Division investigates hundreds of complaints.

The Fieland investigation was completed relatively quickly because Fieland was upfront about what she had done, Lindback said.

"What bothered us about this case was it happened with four different candidates," he said.

Fieland has been city recorder for almost two years, and worked in essentially the same job without the title since 1996.

She said she allowed candidates in past elections to file and submit signatures simultaneously, but this was the first complaint about the practice.

Eugene city attorneys had defended the method, saying it complied with city codes, but the Elections Division disagreed.

"We find the city's belated contention that city code does not require prior submission of the appropriate forms to be completely untenable," the letter said.

Fieland said she didn't know whether she will have to pay the fine or whether the city will pay it.

Interim City Manager Jim Carlson wasn't available for comment Friday.

Thelen said he hated to see Fieland penalized, but felt there should be some consequence.

The ideal solution would have been to take the candidates off the ballot who hadn't followed state statutes.

"They could still have been in it as write-ins," Thelen said.
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Title Annotation:Decision: State officials say Eugene's city recorder, Kate Fieland, violated election laws.; Politics
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 18, 2002
Words:459
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