Government, politics, Salem

Kotek boots Nearman from posts, fines him in Oregon House

The Oregon Capitol building in Salem. Photo: Chas Hundley

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) is calling for the immediate resignation of Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence) after Capitol security cameras showed a video of the House representative opening a back door to the Capitol, allowing rioters to enter the building on December 21.

Security video of what transpired is available to watch on YouTube from inside the Oregon Capitol. The video clearly shows Nearman’s actions, as well as more of what rioters did inside the building. Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported Nearman exited the building after letting rioters in the door. 

Kotek also announced she stripped Nearman of his legislative committee posts — a budget subcommittee on general movement and a joint committee on technology. She also fined him $2,000 to cover the costs of fixing the damage that resulted from rioters vandalizing the Capitol vestibule. Police officers and journalists also were injured during the breach of the Capitol. 

OPB reports that Nearman was required to read Kotek’s terms out loud on the House floor on Jan.11 following a closed-door session.

Other House members also are filing formal complaints with the Legislative Equity Office about Nearman’s conduct, alleging his actions caused a “hostile work environment at the Capitol.”

The Washington Post also wrote a story about Rep. Nearman’s actions and Speaker Kotek’s response. 

“Representative Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” Kotek said. “As we tragically saw last week during the insurrection at the United States Capitol, the consequences could have been much worse had law enforcement not stepped in so quickly. His actions have created immense fear among legislators and Capitol staff. I believe he should resign immediately because he has already breached the public trust and endangered our ability to safely conduct the people’s business.” 

Nearman’s statement he read on the House floor agreed to immediate safety measures and not to allow any non-authorized personnel to enter the state Capitol in Salem. 

Nearman also agreed to terms limiting his work as a state legislator, relinquishing the badge that provides him with access to the Capitol, and agreed to provide 24 hours notice before he enters the government building.

“This will allow notice to be provided to all Capitol occupants so they can adjust their plans if they do not feel safe working in the building while he is present,” Kotek said. 

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner also released a statement about Nearman’s actions, saying the actions that took place on Dec. 21 were appalling and inexcusable.

“Hate was proudly displayed by the mob who sought chaos and disruption,” Wagner said. “Violent actions at Oregon’s Capitol preceded those in Washington D.C., and I know this is not the (type of) trailblazing for which our great state (is) known.”

Wagner said any person who causes harm or who puts others in harm’s way has no place in the Oregon State Capitol — a building of honor and of service — and that she “categorically” rejects attacks against the pillars of our democracy: free and fair elections, civil society, free press, the rule of law, and the peaceful transition of power. 

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) released a statement about Nearman and the events of Dec. 21 but stopped short of accusing Nearman of absolute guilt until an investigation is completed. 

“Though I (did not) agree with the decision to close the Capitol to the public (Dec. 21), a recently released video clearly shows Rep. Nearman opened a door and violent protesters then entered the Capitol,” her statement reads. 

The melee with police that followed was difficult to watch without a profound sense of gratitude to the troopers who were able to prevent further violence that could have recklessly put more people in harm’s way, Drazan said.

“The investigation into this incident by law enforcement is underway and must be allowed to be completed,” she said. “If the investigation finds that actions taken were criminal, legislators are not above the law and will be held responsible. As we affirm the need for due process and the right of the public to fully engage in the work of the legislature, we commit to protect public safety and hold accountable those who would willfully undermine that commitment.” (sic)

Wagner said what particularly shocks her is the fact that members of the Oregon Legislature have blatantly encouraged and abetted violence (in the previous weeks and months). 

“We should demand that our state Capitol, where we convene empowered by (voters and) the Oregon Constitution to do the people’s work, (to be) free from violence and intimidation,” Wagner said. “We must hold accountable those that encourage acts of hate and threaten our democracy.”

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