County clerk, candidate file complaints after dispute

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker and Medford City Council candidate Curt Ankerberg have filed complaints against each other following a confrontation in Walker's office over disputed petition signatures.

Walker said Tuesday that threats made by Ankerberg earlier this month caused her and her staff to feel physically and verbally threatened.

"We did call authorities because of the threatening nature of the comments," Walker said.

"We feel we did not deserve the treatment. The verbal abuse was very difficult and it made us all nervous about our safety."

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office confirmed Tuesday that a criminal case was opened on June 21 against Ankerberg. He was not arrested and no charges have been filed. The case remains under investigation, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Andrea Carlson.

Ankerberg, 57, a certified public accountant and candidate for Medford's Ward 1, denied making physical threats toward Walker or her staff members and said he has filed complaints against her with the Secretary of State's Office and others.

"She's incompetent, crooked and corrupt," Ankerberg said Tuesday. "I won't be happy until she's thrown out of office."

Ankerberg said he became convinced Walker and her staff were deliberately trying to keep him off the ballot after they rejected several of the 25 signatures required to qualify him for the election.

Walker said she and her three staff members tried to work with Ankerberg. But his understandable frustration quickly turned to legal threats, abusive language and intimidating behavior, Walker said.

"He said 'You'll pay for this,' " Walker said. "This was beyond somebody being just a little bit upset. He was so loud — yelling and threatening. It was hard to understand his issues."

Ankerberg first arrived at the county elections office in mid-June needing verification on at least 25 of the 30 signatures he'd acquired to be eligible for the ballot.

Walker and her staff members initially rejected 11 signatures — mostly because they failed to match signatures on file — which brought him down to 19 signatures, six below the qualifying number.

"She violated my civil rights, and the civil rights of my neighbors," said Ankerberg. "I think anybody in their right mind would be p—-ed off about it. I threatened to contact the ACLU, the state attorney general and the secretary of state."

Ankerberg said he also attempted to complain to all three county commissioners and County Administrator Danny Jordan. But they were unavailable, he said.

Ankerberg returned to the clerk's office on June 21 with six more signatures. Ankerberg said he requested Walker and her staff verify all the signers' legitimacy over the phone after they rejected two of the signatures as duplicates. When they declined to do so, he "had words" with Walker and her staff, Ankerberg said.

"I told her she was committing voter fraud," he said.

Ankerberg said Walker was trying to keep him off the ballot.

"Chris Walker is a part of the good old boy network," he said. "And the good old boy network tried to keep me off the ballot and they were not successful."

Ankerberg's neighbor, John Collins, twice signed Ankerberg's candidacy petition. His signature was rejected the first time because county elections officials said it did not match his voter registration card. It was rejected the second time because he'd already signed the petition once.

Walker said the county's initial interpretation of ORS 260.555 was that Collins' signature could not be allowed as the statute prohibits the signing of an initiative, referendum or recall petition more than once.

Ankerberg contacted the Secretary of State's Elections Division. The statute does not specifically prohibit signing a candidate's petition more than once, said Brenda Bayes, state elections deputy director. Bayes said Collins' signature and another duplicate signature would be allowed.

Alana Guiney, investigator for the state elections office sent a letter to Ankerberg on June 22. Guiney said her office had been in contact with Walker's office and had resolved the matter. One valid signature from each elector can be counted toward the total, she wrote.

"We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you. We believe the situation is now resolved," Guiney wrote.

Collins, a retired Oregon State Police officer, expressed concern that his signature was twice deemed invalid after he'd successfully voted in the May election. Collins also said he wasn't sure whether or not he'd vote for Ankerberg.

"I'm going to look at all the candidates," said Collins.

Ankerberg's completed application was filed with the city of Medford on June 21, well ahead of the Aug. 25 deadline. Ward 1 incumbent Al Densmore also has his packet in with the city, Medford officials said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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