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  • 2 Sep 2014

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County treasurer campaigns go on attack mode

Apparently you should only run for Clackamas County treasurer this year if you’re OK with revealing skeletons in your closet.

James Gleason is challenging Shari Anderson, the incumbent from Oregon City who has overseen the county’s $270 million reserves and investment portfolio since 1999. Arguing she’s “insulting” taxpayers, Gleason advertised in the Voters’ Pamphlet that Anderson earns over $160,000 per year from the county, plus she runs a CPA business on the side with her husband. Anderson said she was embarrassed to see the public information so widely circulated.

But another publicly available tidbit is the fact that the state suspended Gleason’s CPA license over allegations that he aided insider trading while controller of Hollywood Video during the 1990s. Anderson argued it’s “very important” for voters to learn about Gleason’s history given the crucial role of ethical behavior in the position of county treasurer. Anderson received a statewide award for an “Outstanding Contribution to Public Finance” after establishing an internal hotline for reporting suspected fraud. The Oregon Municipal Finance Officers Association award recognized her work in amending ORS 295 in the 2007 legislative session.

Reporting the transactions to the SEC and cooperating with its investigation, Gleason did not personally profit from the trading of his “former friend.” He completed 160 hours of training, including eight hours of ethics classes, in order to regain his license.

“I was a naive young man at that time, immediately regretted the events and did all I could to make it right,” he said. “I’ve been an active CPA licensee in the state of Oregon for many years, so I don’t think there is any current concern about my ethics.”

Gleason argues that the real issue should be working to offer independent financial advice, regularly communicating financial matters to the citizens in an easy-to-understand format.

“The treasurer is in the unique position of reporting directly to the voters and can speak without fear of retribution from inside,” he said.

But in arguing that Anderson should be improving the investment returns of the county’s cash reserves, Gleason made an error in the Voters’ Pamphlet by saying the county’s investment income returned only 0.29 percent.

“I asked for full year 2013, and I assumed that’s what she provided. I didn’t notice the heading on page one where it says July to January,” he said. “Still a 0.29 percent return for seven months is only 0.50 percent annualized and a horrible return.”

Anderson argued that Clackamas County’s “safest” investment return was better than many counties still recovering from a recession.