The investigator’s conclusion was straightforward. Carrie McPherson Douglass, Bend-La Pine School Board member, was not found to have done anything wrong.
She did not violate school board policy, legal standards for campaign speech or the district’s harassment policy when she posted personal information about her opponent, Maria Lopez-Dauenhauer, on Facebook during the May campaign for school board.
That doesn’t mean what McPherson Douglass did was right.
On April 15 McPherson Douglass posted on her personal Facebook page fairly typical political campaign charges — that her opponent is “uber wealthy” lives in a $4.2 million house, spent most of her life in California, is a single-issue candidate who is committed to fully reopening schools “at all costs” and has “far-right views.” Then she did something out of the ordinary: She posted Lopez-Dauenhauer’s address, a map showing where the home is, and a family picture, including Lopez-Dauenhauer’s children.
“I do not want any negative comments about her here or anywhere else,” she did add. “She is a mother and a Central Oregon community member and I want all candidates treated with respect.”
Lopez-Dauenhauer filed a complaint with the school board, saying McPherson Douglass was doxing, or revealing personal information about her to hurt her.
We aren’t going to go into detail of the legal analysis by the investigator, a lawyer hired by the High Desert Education Service District. Briefly, Oregon did not have a doxing law when these actions took place. School district policy has no specific policies applicable to board member’s conduct when they are campaigning. And laws regarding political speech give people a lot of freedom to express themselves.
There’s no question that Lopez-Dauenhauer’s address was publicly available before McPherson Douglass posted it on Facebook. It’s in the form candidates must fill out when running for office, among other places. But was it necessary for McPherson Douglass to make it easier for people to find it, to publicize it? Note that McPherson Douglass got security and a private address for her own home to protect her own family.
Images of Lopez-Dauenhauer’s children were also part of Lopez-Dauenhauer’s campaign. Still, should McPherson Douglass have used images of her opponent’s family as part of an effort to campaign against her opponent? Using a picture of Lopez-Dauenhauer would be one thing. Using an image that included her children is another.
The most telling thing is that McPherson Douglass apologized for the post. She wrote she regretted it from the moment she hit publish. She took the post down. She deserves credit for recognizing that. And while we are certain she will continue to be an excellent school board member, the post was wrong.
If you want to read the investigator’s report and conclusions, we had to make a public records request to get it. Email us at email@example.com, and we will send you a copy.