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Fire chief has sheriff's back

Dan Marshall, chief of Jackson County Fire District No. 5, has stepped forward to defend Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters against an elections fraud allegation.

Winters was accused last week of not being truthful when he claimed in election paperwork that he had attended Rogue Community College.

Marshall sent a letter Thursday to the Secretary of State saying he took classes at RCC with Winters in the mid-1970s.

“He was an aspiring career firefighter, and I can attest to his statements in the 2014 Voters’ Pamphlet, because I attended Rogue Community College with Mike Winters and obtained my EMTI (emergency medical technician intermediate) there with Sheriff Winters and several other firefighters in the Rogue Valley in the mid-1970s.”

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing a complaint filed on Oct. 10 by an unnamed individual and sent a letter to Winters on Oct. 13 asking him to prove that he attended Rogue Community College.

Marshall said personnel training and certification records are retained for six years after a firefighter leaves the fire district.

“So, unfortunately, we no longer have Sheriff Winters’ training records on file,” he stated.

In the Voters' Pamphlet, under "educational background," Winters listed Rogue Community College and the Oregon State Police Academy.

Winters previously said he took classes at RCC during the 1970s as part of his training with Fire District No. 5. He said he didn’t graduate from RCC, and the Voters' Pamphlet only indicates he attended school there.

Complaints filed with the Secretary of State rarely get prosecuted, but if the allegations were to be proven true, it would be considered a possible felony, said Tony Green, spokesman for the Secretary of State.

“We can’t get into any details at this stage because of the nature of the allegations,” Green said. “If you were convicted, it would be a Class C felony.”

The Secretary of State is investigating a possible violation of Oregon Revised Statute 260.715: “A person may not knowingly make a false statement, oath or affidavit when a statement, oath or affidavit is required under the election laws.”

The letter from the Secretary of State stated, "The complaint relates to possible violations of ORS 260.715 stemming from an alleged false statement in the Voters' Pamphlet. Specifically the complaint questions your claim to have attended Rogue Community College."

The letter asked Winters to specify when he attended RCC and whether he was enrolled as a student.

"Please provide any documentation of your attendance at Rogue Community College, such as a transcript or receipt of payment for classes," the letter stated. Winters must submit the information by Oct. 27.

The letter also stated that the inquiry doesn't mean there has been any determination of a violation of election law, and it was signed by Alana Cox, investigations and legal specialist for the Oregon Secretary of State.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.