Secretary of State Bev Clarno gives a speech at her swearing in April 3. Behind her, (middle) Nike lobbyist Julia Brim-Edwards looks on. Brim-Edwards orchestrated the press event as part of her volunteer position with the office. (Claire Withycombe/Oregon Capital Bureau)
Portland Public Schools board member Julia Brim-Edwards says her work at the Secretary of State's office is done, and newly appointed Bev Clarno is ready to lead.
"As the former Speaker of the House and Republican Leader of the Senate, she is a seasoned and experienced leader,' Brim-Edwards said in an email responding to questions about her decision to no longer provide assistance as a volunteer to Clarno, who years ago had employed Brim-Edwards as a legislative aide.
Brim-Edwards' role advising Secretary Clarno, who was named by Gov. Kate Brown to the post on Mar. 29, had raised eyebrows due to Brim-Edwards' role as a lobbyist for Nike as well as her history with the Secretary's office under Clarno's predecessor, Dennis Richardson, who passed away in February. Edwards is the senior director of global government and public affairs at Nike.
An April 9 article jointly published by the Portland Tribune and Salem Reporter website reported that Brim-Edwards had worked behind-the-scenes to blunt an audit Richardson issued of the Portland school district in January.
District officials then attacked the audit as "political" and publicly accused the audit of being overblown and excessively negative in a press-conference, though it was conducted by a former reporter known for his attention to fairness and accuracy.
Brim-Edwards said the PPS General Counsel had assured her that her assistance to Clarno did not create a conflict of interest with the school district role.
Brim-Edwards nevertheless told Clarno before she was sworn in that Brim-Edwards should be excluded from any discussion of auditing — a major function of the Secretary of State's office.
She told a reporter that the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission had not raised any questions about her volunteer role.
Upon taking office, Clarno immediately requested the resignations of three top Richardson aides, all of whom had been publicly critical of Portland Public Schools, later explaining she preferred her own team. Brim-Edwards declined to say if she had shared her opinions of the aides with Clarno.
Regardless, any official role Brim-Edwards had volunteering for Clarno is now over.
As was first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Brim-Edwards in an April 12 email wrote to Clarno that "With your formal and ceremonial investiture completed, your initial round of introductions/re-introductions of state leaders done, and the executive team recruitment nearing completion, your transition from appointee to Secretary is well underway. Given that, you no longer have a need for my assistance with your transition."
In interviews in early April and on April 9 Brim-Edwards did not mention any imminent plans to stop assisting Clarno. Noting that she is well-connected in Salem, and is married to former state Treasurer Randall Edwards, she said that her role was to help Clarno "getting sworn in and getting her feet on the ground in Salem. She hasn't been in Salem since ... 2003?"
Brim-Edwards says she now has fulfilled why she was helping Clarno in the first place, though she'll be available to help with advice as needed, as she would be with anyone. "As with many others in state government who reach out to me, I am willing to share my perspective and expertise if asked," she said.