SALEM — Republican Rep. Mike Nearman of Independence has been stripped of his committee assignments and commission appointments and faces calls for his resignation stemming from his actions opening doors that admitted rioting lock down protesters inside the state capitol on Dec. 21.
In the wake of Nearman’s actions seen in three videos released Jan. 1 by Oregon Legislative Counsel, he agreed to interim safety measures on Jan. 11. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, announced the actions taken against Nearman in a press statement, adding “he has already breached the public trust and endangered our ability to safely conduct the people’s business.”
In addition to his stripped duties, Kotek invoiced Nearman $2,000 to cover the costs of fixing the damage to the building.
“Rep. Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger. As we tragically saw last week during the insurrection at the United States Capitol, the consequences could have been much worse had law enforcement not stepped in so quickly,” Kotek said in a statement.
She then called for his resignation from the Legislature.
Nearman has not responded to any media requests for comment. Nearman’s district, House District 23, includes part of Polk County.
He did read a letter on the floor of the House, agreeing to giving the Legislature 24 hours notice before coming to the capital building and not giving any further entry to unauthorized people in the future. In addition, Nearman agreed to give up his 24/7 building access badge.
However, these measures do not prevent Nearman from facing future sanctions. According to media reports, Kotek and other representatives are filing a formal conduct complaint against Nearman with the Legislative Equity Office, alleging that his actions created a hostile workplace.
A COVID-19 lockdown protest Dec. 21 at the state capital turned into a riot when on the west side of the Capital building protesters broke glass doors, physically engaged both police and journalists and vandalized tarps from the front steps marble reliefs. The Capitol building has been closed to the public, even while lawmakers are in session, due to the pandemic.
The security video shows Nearman walking out a side exit when the Legislature was still in session and two protesters holding open the normally locked doors before they could close. About 50 other protesters flooded the vestibule. Law enforcement officers pushed them back out, but were unable to close the outer door now held open by protesters. A standoff ensued with both sides using chemical spray.
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan released a statement on Sunday, saying she supports the right to protest, but condemns intimidation, violence and destruction.
“While I don’t agree with the decision to close the Capitol to the public, a recently released video shows Representative Nearman opened a door and violent protesters then entered the Capitol,” Drazan said. “The melee with police which follows is difficult to watch without a profound sense of gratitude to the troopers who were able to prevent further violence that could have recklessly put more people in harm’s way. The impacts to the Capitol community are an elevated risk for violence within the building, which is significant.”
Drazan said the investigation must be completed.
“If the investigation finds that actions taken were criminal, legislators are not above the law, and will be held responsible,” Drazan said. “As we affirm the need for due process and the right of the public to fully engage in the work of the legislature, we commit to protect public safety and hold accountable to those would willing undermine that commitment.”