Two candidates, two views for the office

DA candidates explain their ideas for office functions

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

DA candidates

Patrick Flaherty

Age: 57

Residence: Redmond

Experience: Judicial clerk in Clackamas County, prosecutor in Lincoln County; joined the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office in 1992. Promoted in 1995 to chief deputy district attorney; left in 2001 to join wife, attorney Valerie Wright, in a private law firm as defense attorney. Took office as DA in January 2011.

John Hummel

Age: 44

Residence: Bend

Experience: Private practice criminal law defense attorney in Crook and Jefferson counties; served on Bend City Council from 2001 to 2007; defense attorney for Crabtree & Rahmsdorff Defense Services. Worked in Liberia for The Carter Center, a nonprofit that advocates for human rights, from May 2008 until June 2010. Hummel has been employed as the state and federal policy director at Oregon Primary Care Association since his return.

It’s a tale of two philosophies.

Throughout the race for the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, challenger John Hummel has spoken often about his unique vision for the DA’s office, saying if elected, he’d bring together a group of collaborators from different branches of law enforcement, local nonprofits, business owners and other community leaders who would come up with a “vision” for how to keep Deschutes County safe. He says he’d focus the office on preventing crime. “I want to transform that job,” he said. “I don’t want to sit back and wait for crimes to happen then prosecute them. I think we can do more than we are currently doing.”

Incumbent Patrick Flaherty, on the other hand, says Deschutes County is one of the safest counties in the state because groups of community partners are already working together. Flaherty suggested people ask local nonprofits, law enforcement and health care workers “what they think of Hummel’s vision quest.”

“They will tell you that we have been and are engaged in an ongoing dialogue about how we can most efficiently and effectively ensure public safety in our community,” Flaherty wrote in a Wednesday email.

According to the Oregon constitution, the district attorney for each county identifies and prosecutes people who break city and county laws. The DA’s office is also required by state mandate to head up multi-disciplinary teams to charge, prosecute and convict child abusers, elder abusers and sexual abusers, according to the Deschutes County website.

Flaherty says the DA’s office doesn’t need transformation and says Hummel’s lack of experience as a prosecutor makes him unqualified to run the district attorney’s office. Flaherty has been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney for more than 25 years, taking hundreds of cases to trial. Hummel worked as a defense attorney for about 12 years. He said his last court case was in 2011 in Multnomah County. Hummel’s last case in Deschutes County went to trial in 2007, he said.

“I am dedicated to the Office of District Attorney and have no political ambition,” Flaherty wrote. “I am not and will not use the DA’s Office as a political platform or stepping stone.”

Hummel is unapologetic about the connections he’s made in Salem and said he’s used those relationships to help Deschutes County.

“I’ve developed positive working relationships throughout the state with people involved in government and law,” he wrote in a Wednesday email. “I’ve already proven my interest in using these relationships to keep Deschutes County safe.”

His experience as a community leader and a collaborator, Hummel says, means he has skills to bring community members together to create programs that will reduce crime in the county, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.

“Everyone (in law enforcement) is doing great work in regard to crime prevention, but I think if we brought together all the crime prevention components in the community we’d see some duplication of services and we’d probably see some gaps. But where’s the leadership to bring people together and look at this as a whole?” Hummel said during an April debate with Flaherty.

Flaherty said one of his biggest strengths as DA is his ability to lead and said his office is constantly collaborating with law enforcement officials to prevent and prosecute crime.

“It is important to appreciate the hubris Hummel has to suggest that none of the dedicated public servants involved in public safety know what ‘public safety should look like in Deschutes County,’” Flaherty wrote Wednesday. “He is implying that Deschutes County is not one of the safest counties in the State, which is both arrogant and false.”

Flaherty said community-based prevention programs are important and he supports them, but enforcement is key.

“The most important crime prevention tool is effective law enforcement. This is an axiom in the crime prevention world,” Flaherty wrote. “Educational programs, providing greater opportunities for healthy recreation, and similar community-based prevention efforts are very important and I support them all; but the studies conclusively show that effective enforcement of the law is the number one crime prevention technique. It also happens to be the core function of the District Attorney’s Office.”

During his tenure, Flaherty said, the district attorney’s office has increased outreach with law enforcement, focused on offering better help for offenders suffering from mental illness, advocated for specialty courts like family drug court and a program for domestic violence offenders and worked to start a specialty court for veteran offenders.

The current deputy district attorneys and other staff work with dozens of community groups, in and out of law enforcement, to come up with ways to prevent crimes and assist crime victims, Flaherty said.

“Ask judges, the Sheriff, police officers, juvenile community justice counselors, probation officers, behavioral health workers. … They will tell you that we have been and are engaged in an ongoing dialogue about how we can most efficiently and effectively ensure public safety in our community.”

Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins said Flaherty, like all other district attorneys she knows, collaborates with outreach programs throughout Deschutes County.

“No DA’s office that I know of in the 36 counties focuses solely on prosecution,” she said on Wednesday. “Patrick takes an active part in programs and specialty courts that all lead to better public safety and more efficient use of resource, and having worked with his office I believe it’s the same there.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com