Demonstrators intentionally let into Capitol by state Rep. Mike Nearman, report finds

Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, at his desk on March 30, 2021 (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, “more likely than not” intentionally breached security protocols by allowing a group of demonstrators into the Capitol, impeding the ability of staff to function.

That’s the conclusion of an independent investigator hired by the Oregon Legislature to look into Nearman’s role in a Dec. 21 riot at the Capitol that involved assaults on police and journalists. In January, surveillance footage was released showing Nearman holding the door open at the Capitol, which has been closed during the pandemic, for demonstrators during a December special session.

Multiple demonstrators face charges after violently clashing with police during the incident, which was declared a riot by Salem police.

The report was produced by Melissa Healy, of Stoel Rives LLP law firm, in response to complaints made by Capitol building facility service manager David Hartsfield, as well as multiple legislators and unnamed complainants.

“I have thought long and hard about the decision to file this complaint, and I keep coming back to the lack of care and concern for the staff and members of this building and how the actions of this one individual jeopardized the safety and welfare of each and every person inside of the Capitol on that day,” said Hartsfield in his complaint.

The report noted that other witnesses described how the demonstrators had an “openly angry and agitated demeanor” that was different from other protests.

The report mentions that many demonstrators wore military gear, were armed and carried flags or signs associated with far-right political beliefs including, “politicians are the virus, revolution is the cure” and “bring back tar [and] feather.”

Hartsfield described in the report that it was “terrifying” when demonstrators entered the vestibule. He described how demonstrators attempted to break in by kicking on doors and trying to squeeze through a window. He said no one could do their jobs during the confrontation.

Legislators interviewed for the report said they were “visibly distraught,” “uneasy” and “distracted” after the incident. Several also expressed concerns that following the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington D.C. that they were concerned about Nearman’s presence in the Oregon Capitol “in light of the serious threat that his actions presented.”

According to the report, Nearman’s attorney declined to participate in the investigation, citing the criminal charges he faces for his role in allowing demonstrators inside the Capitol.

Nearman has faced calls to resign and has been stripped of his committee assignments. Currently, the report is before a legislative committee that’ll determine whether his conduct created a hostile work environment. Nearman could face expulsion by a vote of the Oregon House.

Nearman, who has refused to resign, is being represented by attorney Jason Glenn Short, whose office declined comment. 

 Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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