PORTLAND - Two teachers' employee unions have won an Oregon Supreme Court decision in a struggle against their nemesis Bill Sizemore, but if they want to collect the damages, they may be chasing him through the halls of justice for years to come.
The court's decision Thursday upheld most of what lower courts had decided: Two Sizemore initiatives got on the ballot in 2000 through underhanded means and were meant to bleed the unions of campaign money.
This, the court ruled, fits the state's version of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. It said signatures were forged and charitable contributions diverted in a scheme to force the unions to spend hundreds of thousands in a successful defense of their ability to collect union dues through payroll deductions.
But, meanwhile, Sizemore hasn't been deterred from his conservative agenda. He may qualify as many as five initiatives for the November ballot, including one along the lines of an unsuccessful 2000 measure.
And his message to the unions trying to collect a $2.5 million judgment is: Tough luck.
The Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon called their victory in the Supreme Court "the end of the road for Bill Sizemore."
"Oregon voters should be very suspicious of any measure he puts forward now and in the future," said Larry Wolf, president of the larger teachers union, the OEA, in a statement.
The $2.5 million was assessed against a nonprofit organization Sizemore organized, and the unions have been trying for years to get Sizemore held personally liable.
Greg Hartman, a lawyer for the Oregon Education Association, said the group would press that issue in the Supreme Court as well as the trial court, to which the case decided Thursday will go for further consideration.
For his part, Sizemore said that with lawyers' fees tacked on, and at 9 percent interest, the $2.5 million judgment is now on the order of $5 million, and growing.
"If it's $1 million or $100 million, I couldn't pay it," he said Thursday.
In March, the unions did win agreement from Sizemore to pay them $130,000 in exchange for dismissing a lawsuit related to the judgment.