October 29, 2002 11:00 pm

Eyes were focused Monday on a Multnomah County Circuit Court courtroom to see how a judge would handle a case involving a rich, high-profile defendant found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident.

By all appearances, Judge Julie E. Frantz's sentencing of well-known Portland auto dealer Scott Thomason was fair. The sentence was tough enough to get a point across to Thomason, but light enough so as not to punish him beyond what was necessary under the circumstances.

Thomason pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failure to perform the duties of a driver in an incident involving property damage. The charge stemmed from an Oct. 3 accident in downtown Portland in which Thomason's vehicle rear-ended another car, and the auto dealer fled the scene.

THOMASON WILL SERVE 18 months of formal probation and 100 hours of community service. His driver's license is suspended for 90 days. Thomason also paid an undisclosed financial settlement to the other driver, David A. Elliott, 32, and will be required to undergo an alcohol-use evaluation and treatment, if necessary.

Thomason seemed willing enough to own up to the misdemeanor charge. There was no trial necessary and no plea bargain. He apologized for leaving the scene of the fender-bender and admitted to a "terrible error in judgment."

THE CAR DEALER will now have to ponder the publicity surrounding the case and the example he set in not acting responsibly when faced with a problem. Oregon's law prohibiting motorists from leaving the scene of an accident has the same kind of personal responsibility built into it it as an agreement that someone makes to pay for a car.

Certainly people purchasing a vehicle from a Thomason auto dealership cannot step away from their monthly payments simply because they become a burden to them.


The 15 percent of ballots turned into the Union County Clerk's office by Monday is rather low. Local voters have had ballots in their hands for the Nov. 5 mail-in election for nearly two weeks. The response in Wallowa County of 21.9 percent of ballots being turned in was slightly better.

MAYBE VOTERS, in waiting until the last minute to cast their ballots, think that some late-breaking tidbit of information will surface that will cause them to change their mind about a candidate or a measure.

The fact is, those who are planning to mail their ballots should not wait much longer. They should get their envelope in the mail at least three days before the election to make sure their ballots are counted on election day.