The candidate who dropped out of a race to represent Bend in the Oregon Legislature faced legal troubles on two fronts Thursday.
Amanda La Bell is the target of a complaint filed with the Oregon Department of Justice against The Rebecca Foundation, the nonprofit national diaper bank run by La Bell.
Volunteers said Wednesday they sent thousands of dollars, including grant checks from Walmart, to La Bell. La Bell said the organization has no money.
The Secretary of State’s Office also confirmed it had forwarded a complaint to the Department of Justice alleging La Bell knowingly filed a false statement in the state’s Voters’ Pamphlet.
La Bell suspended her campaign after the allegation surfaced.
Kristina Edmunson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice, said Thursday officials were looking into an allegation against The Rebecca Foundation.
“We have received one complaint so far,” Edmunson said. “We are reviewing the Bend Bulletin article and considering if any additional action is appropriate.”
Edmunson said the Department of Justice’s Charitable Activities Section is responsible for screening reports involving fraudulent activities in nonprofits, and investigating if necessary. Additional conduct, such as embezzlement, might be reported to local law enforcement.
“Larger matters might be subject to investigation by federal authorities,” Edmunson said.
The U.S. Department of Justice often gets involved in criminal investigations that cross state lines. The Internal Revenue Service can investigate financial transactions.
The Rebecca Foundation, which has dozens of chapters in the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico, posted an unsigned statement on its website Tuesday that it was suspending operations. The website and Facebook page were shut down Wednesday.
In a separate action, the Secretary of State’s Office has forwarded a complaint for possible criminal action against La Bell for making a false claim on her Voters’ Pamphlet statement. La Bell suspended her campaign as the Working Families Party candidate for House District 54 after the state found she had falsely claimed to have a college degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia.
“It’s a criminal issue, so it is with (the Department of Justice),” emailed Deb Royal, chief of staff for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.
The complaint was filed by the political arm of Oregon House Republicans, the Promote Oregon Leadership PAC.
Executive Director Preston Mann said the group was not seeking any specific remedy.
Intentionally making a false claim on a Voters’ Pamphlet statement is a Class C felony.
Erick Ward, of the Bend law firm of Ward Grover & Ash, said Thursday he will represent La Bell in the Voters’ Pamphlet matter.
“It’s under investigation,” Ward said. “I can tell you that I think this will wrap up very soon and she will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
La Bell has cut ties with another nonprofit. She volunteered to step down from the board of Skyline Foundation, a nonprofit supporting Bend-La Pine School District’s new charter school, Skyline High School. According to documents from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, she was the founder of the foundation.
“As soon as the media report hit with the voter pamphlet, she immediately volunteered to step down,” said board member Dawn Boone. Edmunson said anyone with information about possible misappropriation of funds from a nonprofit should contact the Oregon Department of Justice. Complaints can be submitted at justice.oregon.gov/Charities/Complaint.
“If they would like to submit a complaint confidentially, they should call us in advance to discuss that,” Edmunson said.
The Charitable Activities Section number is 971-673-1880. Those calling should ask for the chief investigator.
— Jackson Hogan, Suzanne Roig and Julia Shumway contributed to this report.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org