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State settles with target of investigation for $1M

— PORTLAND — The state of Oregon will pay $1 million to a former state Department of Energy official who claims his career was derailed by a botched investigation.

The payment settles a lawsuit filed by Mark Long, who says former Oregon Department of Justice prosecutor Sean Riddell withheld or destroyed documents central to the investigation. The agency did not acknowledge any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the settlement was the best use of taxpayer dollars.

“It could easily cost upwards of another million dollars just to try the case,” Rosenblum said in a statement. “So, even if we were to win, Oregonians could lose.”

The case began under Rosenblum’s predecessor, John Kroger, who is now president of Reed College in Portland and whom Long sued in federal court. Through a Reed spokesman, Kroger declined to comment.

Long was interim head of the state Energy Department in 2010 when a $60,000 contract was awarded to a company co-owned by Cylvia Hayes, partner of John Kitzhaber, who was then running for governor.

The investigation examined whether the Energy Department carved out part of a contract for Hayes’ company, but it produced no arrests or charges.

A Marion County judge ruled in April 2012 that the state was responsible for Long’s attorney’s fees, which totaled $560,000.

“I think Mark is glad to put this chapter behind him,” said his attorney, Bill Gary. “We’re satisfied that we have accomplished what we set out to do.”

Long, who was on administrative leave after the probe began in 2010, sought documents related to the investigation and then sued, claiming the Justice Department had failed to produce them in a timely way.

The Justice Department argued it turned over thousands of documents, but a Marion County judge agreed that records were released well after they were useful to Long.

Riddell, former chief of the Justice Department’s criminal justice division, testified that he worked countless hours in 2011 trying to collect documents in response to requests from the media and Long’s lawyer,

Kroger later put Riddell on leave then reassigned him.

Riddell, now in private practice in Portland, said Wednesday that he faced repercussions for doing his job.

“I asked questions of rich and politically connected people that they didn’t want to answer,” he said. “I believe the people of Oregon deserve the full accounting of (the investigation) in open federal court.”

Long has returned to work as administrator of the state Building Codes Division at the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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