- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Department of Justice has filed a state bar complaint against Republican activist Kevin Mannix, alleging the Salem attorney violated ethics rules when he represented a veterans charity that gave money to his political and business activities.

The complaint says Mannix violated several rules of professional conduct for lawyers, including restrictions on doing business with clients or soliciting gifts from them, and a rule against charging excessive fees.

The charges stem from an investigation into the Oregon War Veterans Association, which the Justice Department said provided little money for veterans while enriching its founder, Gregory Warnock. The department won a default judgment that shut down the charity and ordered Warnock to pay $746,000 in restitution.

Mannix was the 2002 Republican nominee for governor and has long led ballot initiatives, including Measure 11 imposing mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes. He denied wrongdoing and questioned whether the department is pursuing him for political reasons. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is a Democrat.

“Being an attorney and a conservative raises the hackles of some people,” Mannix told the Oregonian (https://bit.ly/1Gp8XV1 ), adding that he has been “very careful about meeting legal responsibilities for clients.”

The bar complaint, filed July 1, alleges Mannix obtained $505,000 from the veterans charity for a “think tank” business he owned as well as the gift of a $13,800 Rolex watch. It also says the charity turned over about $500,000 to a variety of political groups Mannix set up to push for tougher criminal laws and other policies, including $110,000 in donations to help Mannix pay off past campaign debts he owed to his law firm.

The complaint says that the charity’s financial records revealed a clear pattern involving its primary donor.

“Mr. Mannix would meet or otherwise communicate with the donor, and the donor would make a substantial donation” to the charity, the bar complaint says. “Once the donation was received, it would be followed by substantial payments to the Mannix organizations and to Mr. Warnock or entities Mr. Warnock controlled.”

The complaint charged that Mannix also received $90,000 in legal fees from the charity for what the department alleged was about 40 hours of work - and 15 of those hours was time that Mannix spent on a fishing trip he took with Warnock and the donor.

At the same time, the state Justice Department filed a separate complaint against Ross Day, a Portland attorney who represented the charity shortly after it was first targeted by the department.

Day, who once helped run one of Mannix’s political groups, Common Sense for Oregon, was accused by the department of failing to respond to discovery requests and of not following a judge’s order to temporarily continue to represent the charity, which had run out of money to pay him.

“I just think this is retaliation, against me at least,” Day said of the bar complaint. He said he had filed his own complaint against Elizabeth Grant, the Justice Department attorney who took the bar actions against Day and Mannix. Day’s complaint was filed in 2011 and dismissed after three months.

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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