If you only moved to Deschutes County, or began paying attention to its politics in the last six years or so, you might say: “John who?”
But former Bend city councilor John Hummel – who quit his second term to go to, of all places, Africa – is hoping what you’ll hear from him, and from long-time residents backing his campaign, will convince you next year that it’s time once again, for the second time in four years, to oust the current district attorney and put a new one in place.
Hummel, 44, who practiced criminal law in Bend for over a decade, announced Wednesday that he’s running to unseat DA Patrick Flaherty in the May 20, 2014 primary.
Flaherty knocked off long-time DA Mike Dugan in a bruising 2010 campaign, but got off to a somewhat rocky start when several former deputy DAs he declined to keep aboard filed suit – a case settled only a few weeks ago, when the state decided, over Flaherty’s objections, to settle the case with $710,000 in payments to the plaintiffs and their attorneys.
Last year, the Oregon State Police and Oregon State Bar cleared Flaherty of any wrongdoing when he called a grand jury and issued subpoenas, one to a Bulletin reporter, to investigate the release of personal information about employees in his office by county legal counsel Mark Pilliod due to a public records request by the newspaper.
In the announcement of his candidacy, Hummel said he “will make the case to voters that his extensive management and legal experience will best protect families and guarantee justice in our community.”
Flaherty did not immediately respond to NewsChannel 21's request for a comment, but told The Bulletin he plans to run for re-election next year.
Hummel, elected to the city council in 2000 and re-elected in 2004, promised that if elected DA, he’d “work closely with non-profit and business groups to implement cost-effective programs that reduce crime rates and help victims.”
“Under the current DA, the office has been plagued with controversies that have cost taxpayers more than $1 million,” he said. “I will never forget that the government’s money is the people’s money. I will ensure that all public resources go to purposes the people expect: Seeking justice and preventing crimes.”
Some high-profile cases also have sparked controversy, such as the Bret Biedscheid fatal hit-and-run plea deal and the James Hargrave murder conviction, but Hummel is not going into them - at this point.
"The current DA has made many decisions that I disagree with, and it has cost taxpayers," he told NewsChannel 21. "But I'm still reviewing the particulars of several cases, so won't get into the details now. There will be plenty of time for those discussions in the eight months until May."
Hummel said he was part of a team that established Central Oregon’s first drug program.
While he hasn't been on the council during recent controversies, such as the water pipeline project, Hummel did introduce the "equal rights ordinance" passed by the council in 2004 to protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. He also was a strong proponent of public transit and for the Juniper Ridge mixed-use development.
After leaving the city council, Hummel first went back to school and got a master's degree in international development from Johns Hopkins University.
He then traveled to the African country of Liberia, helping rebuild its justice system as it emerged from civil war. He said he managed a staff of 50 and trained police officers, justice and prosecutors, also helping establish a sex crimes prosecution unit.
Once back in Oregon, Hummel served from 2010 to 2012 as director of Oregon Consensus, a conflict resolution institute based at Portland State University. He managed a staff of 10 and traveled the state helping communities resolve public policy disputes.
Hummel's current job is policy director for the Oregon Primary Care Association, a non-profit that focuses on improving health and lowering health care costs.
Hummel’s initial list of nearly 30 endorsements includes the current mayors of Bend, Redmond and Sisters, developers Bill Smith and Mike Hollern, former deputy Das Jon Springer and Jennifer Kimble, and former Bend mayor Bruce Abernethy and retired Bend police Chief Andy Jordan.
He has more information at his campaign’s new Website, www.votehummel.com.