Five photos alleged to show former Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal receiving cash payments for marijuana consulting last year are part of a new ethics complaint filed Wednesday by Jackson County Auditor Eric Spivak.
Spivak's complaint, obtained by the Mail Tribune through a public records request, states Breidenthal may have violated several Oregon Revised Statutes, including a law that prohibits the use of an official position for financial gain.
The ethics complaint is based largely on a lawsuit filed Feb. 3 against Breidenthal by three investors who claim they were partners in a marijuana business.
Breidenthal and his attorneys, John Howry of Medford and David Griggs of Portland, could not be reached for comment Monday.
One of the investors, Greg Allen, alleges he gave Breidenthal cash payments totaling $45,000 along with $34,000 in personal property and inventory for the business, known as American Cannabis Co., at 2131 W. Main St., Medford.
When Breidenthal allegedly received the payments, Allen was operating Rogue Valley Remedies, another marijuana store.
Allen, in his lawsuit, claims he met Breidenthal in May 2016 after Rogue Valley Remedies was cited April 6, 2016, by Jackson County Code Enforcement, for operating a marijuana dispensary without obtaining the necessary permit.
Allen alleges Breidenthal expressed interest during their meeting in May of getting into the marijuana industry, the same month Breidenthal lost the Republican primary to Bob Strosser. By August, Allen claims he began giving Breidenthal at least $1,000 a month as a marijuana consultant, plus additional dollars to help open a new store.
A series of five photos provided by Allen to the auditor shows Breidenthal allegedly receiving separate cash payments while he was county commissioner in November and December. The photos were screen shots from videos recorded at Rogue Valley Remedies, 3724 S. Pacific Highway, from surveillance equipment that is required under the store's Oregon Liquor Control Commission license.
"If the payments were accepted as alleged and were made because of Breidenthal's position as Jackson County Commissioner, Breidenthal may also have violated ORS 244.040, which prohibits use of official position for the purpose of obtaining financial gain," Spivak writes.
On Nov. 9, 2016, a $150,000 cashier's check from Lawrence J. Nelson and Mary D. Nelson indicates it was sent to Breidenthal's company, Capital Pacific Advisors Inc. On the same day, Breidenthal applied for a recreational marijuana retail license from the OLCC.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, Breidenthal established Capital Pacific Sept. 23, 2016.
"If Breidenthal incorporated Capital Pacific Advisors Inc. with the intent of involvement in the marijuana industry, then Breidenthal may have violated ORS conflict of interest laws by failing to disclose his business interest prior to or at the Oct. 20, 2016, Board of Commissioners staff meeting," Spivak writes.
The ethics complaint cites four instances last August when commissioners, including Breidenthal, discussed issues regarding marijuana.
On Aug. 11, 2016, an executive session discussed Rogue Valley Remedies under the title, "Potential litigation with a local business that has been cited by the county for code violation," according to the ethics complaint.
On Aug. 18, at a commission staff meeting, Rogue Valley Remedies was discussed in relation to code enforcement policy, according to the complaint.
At the time, Breidenthal was also a member of the OLCC Recreational Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee.
Allen alleges he made his first $1,000 cash payment to Breidenthal Aug. 13, 2016, as a stipend for marijuana consulting services.
According to Allen in the lawsuit, he asked Breidenthal Aug. 16, 2016, whether it was legal for Breidenthal to accept payments while he was commissioner.
Allen claims that Breidenthal assured him that he had consulted with Jackson County counsel to make sure he could receive the payments. County Counsel Joel Benton has said he couldn't comment on any communications he may have had with Breidenthal because of attorney-client privilege.
According to ORS 244.120, an elected official has a number of requirements to disclose potential conflicts of interest and abstain from voting or discussing issues related to any conflicts.
"There is no known record of Breidenthal publicly announcing a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest at any Jackson County public hearing," Spivak stated.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.
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