Jon Russell’s degree

Did Jon Russell, the Washougal city councilor who’s running for an open seat in the 18th Legislative District, misrepresent his academic credentials to precinct committee officers?

Yes, says Kelly Hinton, who leveled the accusation at Russell last week on his Clark County Politics blog.

No, insists Russell. So we checked it out.

Russell allegedly told 18th District precinct committee officers that he had a two-year associate degree from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey. The college offers degrees through correspondence courses as well as at its bricks-and-mortar campus.

The college confirms that Russell enrolled in courses there, but says it has not granted him a degree.

Russell says he has earned more than the 60 credit hours required for an AA degree. He told The Columbian he has sent for his transcript to prove it.

But he concedes that he never got around to doing the paperwork required to get the actual degree.

When he looked into it last week, he said, he learned he would have to reenroll as a fulltime student in order to apply.

Joe Guzzardo, spokesman for Thomas Edison, confirmed the policy. Not only that, he said, it would cost Russell $630 to apply for the AA degree under the college’s “reenrollment to graduate” policy. Until last March, he said, the cost would have been $2,332 for former students living out of state.

“In order for someone like Mr. Russell to finish, they would have to take advantage of the ‘reenrollment to graduate’ policy,” Guzzardo said.

Russell maintains that he never said he actually had the degree. “I’ve always said I’ve earned my degree,” he told The Columbian. “I’ve never said I obtained my degree.”

Nevertheless, he said Tuesday, “I have submitted a ‘request for graduation’ form with Thomas Edison to have my diploma sent to me.”

Russell says Hinton’s blog “is designed to do nothing more than to tear down my credibility” because Hinton, a former legislative staffer, backs one of Russell’s opponents, Ann Rivers, in the 18th District race. “He is trying to turn over every rock,” Russell said.

Both Hinton and Rivers confirmed that they are business associates in a political consulting firm. Rivers called Hinton “a friend.”

But she said she’s not behind Hinton’s blog attacks. “I don’t need to tear down someone else’s building to make myself look taller,” she said.

Hinton confirmed in an e-mail that he supports Rivers’ candidacy, but he said he began criticizing Russell when he was still a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Russell dropped out of that race in February and joined a crowded field for the open 18th District position.

Kathie Durbin

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