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Winters calls elections allegations 'slanderous'

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters called recent allegations that he provided incorrect information in the Voters' Pamphlet “nonsense” and “slanderous.”

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

“It’s total silliness,” Winters said. “It’s just slanderous.”

In the voter’s pamphlet, under educational background, Winters listed Rogue Community College and the Oregon State Police Academy.

He said he took fire science and EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) classes at RCC during the 1970s as part of his training with Fire District No. 5. Although the classes were taken so long ago, Winters said he is trying to track down documentation to substantiate his education. He said he didn’t graduate from RCC and the voters pamphlet only indicates he attended school there.

"I’m not going to commit a Class C felony so I can say I took a few classes at RCC," Winters said. "It’s laughable."

Winters announced earlier that he wasn’t going to run against his opponent, Corey Falls, Ashland police deputy police chief, but would serve for another four years if he gets the most votes despite dropping his campaign.

Complaints filed with the Secretary of State rarely get prosecuted, but if the allegations are 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 of this stage because of the nature of the allegations,” Green said. “If you were convicted, it would be a Class C felony.”

Specifically, 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 states, "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 asks 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 states. Winters must submit the information by Oct. 27. 

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

Green said he knows of only two cases that led to criminal prosecution, including the former mayor of West Linn, Patty Galle, in 2010 when she falsified her educational background by purchasing a diploma. Also, former Congressman Wes Cooley lied about his military background and marital status in a voter’s pamphlet in 1994.

Falls said he didn’t have enough information to really comment on the issue, but he said he hoped the matter could be cleared up quickly.

“I don’t know what to say about this,” he said. “I don’t want this to be the reason for me to get votes or for me to win.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.