When Douglas County Chief Financial Officer Jessica Hansen sued Douglas County Assessor Roger Hartman in August, she also named Hartman’s friend Larry Saccato as a defendant.

Last week, Saccato came out swinging. He not only denied Hansen’s allegations, but filed a counterclaim in Douglas County Circuit Court against her, along with two county commissioners, the county’s human resources director and a former county I-T director. He seeks $2.5 million in non-economic damages, plus $6,500 in economic damages.

Saccato denied Hansen’s claim that he conspired along with three other defendants to harass Hansen after she first complained about Hartman. One of the claims against Saccato revolves around his filing public information requests with the county. Hansen describes those requests as “retaliatory,” while Saccato said they are a basic public right. That’s why on Oct. 3, the same day he filed his counterclaim, Saccato filed an anti-SLAPP lawsuit asking the court to strike Hansen’s claims against him.

SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” An anti-SLAPP suit protects a defendant against a lawsuit intended to discourage him from exercising his right to petition or free speech, or in this case, make public information requests.

Hansen’s lawsuit alleged that Hartman, County Commissioner Gary Leif, Assessment Manager Frank Lassen and Saccato conspired to retaliate against Hansen after she blew the whistle on Hartman. She had reported alleged problems with Hartman’s ethics and competence, and also charged he made inappropriate gender-related insults about her.

In his counterclaim, Saccato named as defendants the other two county commissioners, Tim Freeman and Chris Boice, along with Hansen, Human Resources Director Michael Kurtz and former I-T Director Kevin Potter. He said that group conspired to create “false and misleading” memorandums about Hartman that also defamed Saccato.

Those memos were leaked to The News-Review in October 2016, and made a number of allegations about Hartman, including that he had driven off competent employees, shown favoritism to friends and business associates when assessing property values and had called Hansen a “bitch” and other names.

The county followed up by hiring independent consultant Jill Goldsmith, who concluded Hartman had retaliated against Hansen. Saccato’s name appeared prominently in Goldsmith’s report, although, according to Saccato, she never interviewed him personally. Goldsmith asserted Saccato had been part of a conspiracy to harass Hansen. She wrote that Hartman directed Saccato to submit retaliatory public records requests to the county. And she said that Saccato used the information he gathered to argue Hansen wasn’t qualified as CFO because she hadn’t obtained a bond and signed an oath of office. He alleged that when she sent out tax bills before doing those things, she committed mail fraud.

Goldsmith called that whistle-blower retaliation against Hansen, but Saccato said he hopes the judge in this case will determine whether Hansen has taken the steps necessary to be the county’s CFO and tax collector.

In Saccato’s view, it’s the county and its officials who have retaliated against him. His counterclaim said Goldsmith was hired to “prepare a report, with a preconceived outcome, which contained derogatory, misleading and plainly false information about Saccato.”

“I just feel like I’ve had a lot of damage done to me,” Saccato told The News-Review Monday. He said all he wants is for the county to get things right.

In addition to seeking damages, Saccato’s counterclaim sides with Hartman’s assertion that the county overtaxed county residents $14 million over a five-year period. The claim asks that money be refunded to taxpayers, along with treble damages.

“I really feel that Roger went in there and Roger meant to do a good job. He’s one of the most honest guys that I’ve ever met, and he’s just been getting lambasted,” Saccato said.

Freeman referred questions to Steve Zier, assistant county counsel, who said the county can’t comment on the pending lawsuit. Boice also declined comment for this story. The News-Review was unable to reach Kurtz or Potter for comment.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(6) comments

Momos

Had enough, citizens? Our county government is clearly out of control. Who's attorney fees are we taxpayers on the hook for, and for how much? Maybe they'll divert safety net money to cover it.

MRFSYS

Speaking of "safety nets", do you remember the phrase "follow the money"? Douglas County's last statement of its investment portfolio showed a market value of about $154 Million. See Treasurer's Investment Activity (5/31/2017). Their current Fiscal Year Budget anticipates a cash surplus of $79 Million. And, that Budget also shows a "contingency" line item of $2.6 Million. Either those numbers are correct and Douglas County is sitting on about $233M in net positive assets; or, those numbers are NOT correct, and deliberately false financial reports have been published on the Internet (read WIRE FRAUD).

MRFSYS

The People of Douglas County cannot rely upon The News-Review to conduct itself ethically or reliably in this matter. The term "private attorney general" was originally coined by an American Court, and is now recognized as the correct term to describe a private Citizen who chooses to enforce the Civil RICO laws to protect the public interest. The author of the article above has chosen to write misleading statements without even trying to contact the person being named in those statements: that is yellow journalism. It now appears that the $14M in excess business personal property taxes will need to be reviewed by a civil jury. The County's Risk Management Department has chosen to fall silent after receiving a proper DAMAGES CLAIM for those overcharges. Moreover, none of the County's insurance policies can be used to cover refunds of assessments, because such refunds are expressly excluded from insurance coverage. Lastly, for several years Jessica Hansen neglected to execute the required OATH until February 2017, and another 19 County Department Heads have also failed to disclose OATHs required by the Oregon State Constitution ("any person elected or appointed to any office"). As such, The News-Review can and should be be faulted for neglecting to tell the whole story here.

KnowsTheTruth

The ravings of a nut case. The above response, more than anything, demonstrates how far out their Larry is. "Everyone is wrong", regardless of the facts. Two very indepth investigative reports, conducted by professional law firms (who, regardless of what Larry spouts, are not going to ruin their reputations by being "bought" by a county) have found Larry and Roger completely guilty of multiple cases of harassment. Dept of Revenue and Dept of Justice have both investigated and dismissed his and Roger's bogus $14M tax claim. As demonstrated above, it's not above Larry to harass Commissioners, good employees, 19 department heads, and anyone else he deems fit. His comments above completely demonstrate his personality and tactics. I'm sure this suit of his, like many of his others, will be dismissed by the courts immediately. Ask yourself, WHY has virtually the entire staff of the Assessor's office left? Why did one already win a wrongful termination settlement due to Roger's actions? Dig deeper folks to see how bad that office is.

MRFSYS

The Public Records Request for the OATHs of all Department Heads was presented to Patricia Hitt's office, using the list naming those Department Heads as published at the Douglas County website. There was just one such Public Records Request. Trying to label a single Public Records Request as "harassment" is simply not correct or appropriate. Moreover, that Public Records Request was not submitted by Mr. Saccato. Patricia Hitt appears to have erred by failing to enforce Article XV, Section 3 in the Oregon State Constitution. Her position is that no OATH is required unless the Oregon Legislature has enacted a statute to that effect. When challenged to disclose the authority(s) and/or legal advice on which she relied for her position, Patricia Hitt chose to fall silent. Way out here on the LEFT COAST, it appears that the State and Federal Constitutions do not get the respect that both deserve. Consequently, Article VI, Clause 3 in the Federal Constitution gets ignored, and so does the Act of Congress at 4 U.S.C. 101, both of which are elevated to supreme Law of the Land by the Supremacy Clause. This demonstrable reality is attributable, in large part, to the deliberate "dumbing down" being inflicted on public school students all over America. Anyone reading this may be interested to know that 14 Department Heads did disclose OATHs. So, why so many missing OATHs? And, why did Hansen neglect to take that OATH until February 2017? No one is above the Law in America. No one.

KnowsTheTruth

Sacatto's lawsuit is rediculous. If folks really knew the amount of harrasment this nutbag has thrown at the County and many of the workers there, they'd be aghast. Larry, along with the Assessor, have conspired, intimidated, and ran off more than a dozen employees of the Assessors office, including one employee who's already sued and won against Roger! But no one hears of that. Larry's filed reams of public records documents against numerous employees, all a tactic to harass and intimidate them. My spouse ultimately left the Assessor's office, as they could no longer stand working there, like many others. Larry lives in secrecy, hides his address via a blind PO box, and anyone he or Roger disagree with become an instant target. Folks may be mad at government in general, but don't let that misguide you on what has gone on by the Assessor and his cronies in this particular situation. I don't know her, but I applaud Miss Hansen's lawsuit (as do NUMEROUS folks who have been also harassed in the office but too intimidated to stand up). There is also no $14M tax scam here, as they continue to try to claim. That is another tactic to obscure the issues going on (the best defense is a good offense) Amazing how that bunch of bull came out RIGHT after the original claims of malfeasance against Roger came out. Dept of Revenue has already investigated that, and indicated it's a bogus claim. But, unfortunately, none of this comes out. Typical Larry and Roger tactics.

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