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Johnson steps down from OBI post amid alleged remarks posted on 05/07/2018

Former HD 52 State Representative Mark Johnson, having been asked to step down from the post he acquired last October as chief executive officer of Oregon Business and Industry (OBI), has resigned from the lobbying group amid allegations of racially insensitive remarks he directed at a former colleague in the Legislature. Johnson, a Hood River Republican, left the Oregon House to take the OBI job after serving from 2011 to 2017.  

The allegation stemmed from a former employee of the lobbying firm OBI, Joel Fischer, who told The Oregonian that Johnson had referred to Portland Democrat State Representative Diego Hernandez, “and his chain migration homeboys from the hood.” 

The Oregonian broke the story in April after having it corroborated by two other OBI employees present during the remarks.  

“It is shocking (to) be accused of insensitivity on equity I care about,” Johnson told The Oregonian. “I apologize to Rep. Diego Hernandez for any insensitive comments I may have made.”  

Johnson went further in a statement to The Mountain Times.  

“I have no recollection of making the alleged comments,” Johnson said. “I don’t know the context or the setting where they allegedly occurred. The quote as it has appeared in the media does not reflect how I typically talk or words that I routinely use.” 

In his defense, Johnson pointed to his public service in support of the Hispanic community, citing his work on controversial measures like tuition equity which allows undocumented students to be able to access post-secondary education by paying in-state tuition rather than out-of-state tuition, plus supporting undocumented residents to obtain drivers cards so they could buy insurance and obtain a driver’s license.  

“The comments are attributed to me by a former employee (of OBI) and two unnamed sources,” Johnson said. “The story originated in a complaint brought by the former employee. I think that is all clear in The Oregonian story. The (OBI) board had subsequently completed an investigation with current staff and did not find evidence to substantiate the claims … But I have no recollection of having made them. 

“It’s been a real shocker for me and my family.”  

Due to the situation, Johnson has also resigned from the Hood River School Board.  

The OBI board learned of Johnson’s comments at its April 10 meeting and reached a unanimous decision to ask for Johnson’s resignation, according to OBI Chairman Scott Parrish.

Larry Berteau/MT




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