Ex-Skamania County auditor must spend 3 weekends in jail

Garvison violated community service requirement of probation

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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Former Skamania County Auditor John Michael Garvison was ordered Thursday to spend three consecutive weekends in jail for violating probation terms related to his conviction of shredding public documents while in office.

Garvison, 41, was sentenced Oct. 25 to do 168 hours of community service and to pay $62,000 in restitution. He was required to complete at least 20 community service hours per month.

He completed just eight hours in November and 17.5 hours in February, according to Jamie Hepner, a Skamania County probation officer. He failed to complete any hours in December and January, Hepner said. The Columbian previously reported that Garvison had completed all of his hours in November, but that was incorrect.

Jon McMullen, Garvison's attorney, acknowledged that his client hasn't completed the required amount of community service but that "it's been with the best of reasons."

McMullen said Garvison tore a bicep muscle in December during a softball match and is unable to do any heavy lifting. He didn't have medical insurance at the time and had to wait two months to receive proper treatment.

However, he failed to notify Hepner of his condition until February, Hepner said.

"Had Mr. Garvison told me he had physical limitations … I could have given his a (community service) site that would accommodate his injuries," she said.

She recommended that Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson convert his community service hours into 21 days in jail plus an additional 30 days as a penalty for violating his probation. Although the crime occurred in Skamania County, the case was given to Clark County to avoid a conflict of interest.

McMullen argued that 51 days in jail would jeopardize Garvison's employment at Oregon City's 3D Electrical Services and prevent him from paying his restitution to Skamania County. He asked that Garvison be given a second chance to complete his community service.

"If you are able to go to employment, I assume there are things you could have done in community service," Johnson said.

"I don't think you worked hard enough to work with the probation officer, but I do want to see what we can do to maintain employment and your obligations to the court," she said.

She said Garvison may continue his job from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but must serve jail time between 8 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Sunday on three consecutive weekends. He will still be required to complete his 20 hours per month of community service for March and subsequent months, until he fulfills all 168 hours.

A group of several Skamania County residents in the courtroom's public gallery expressed disappointment at the brevity of the jail sentence.

"I think he has been treated fairly; I don't think the people have," resident Gloria Howell said.

As part of a plea bargain, Garvison admitted that between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, 2009, he ordered his staff to destroy the records showing his expenditures in 2003 and 2004.

Garvison was originally investigated on suspicion of using thousands of dollars in public money for unauthorized travel, education and office equipment expenses during four years as the county's elected auditor. Investigators, however, weren't able to find enough surviving evidence to prosecute him.

He resigned his position in November 2009 after news of the unauthorized expenses broke and is barred by the court from serving again in a public finance position.