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Showdown looms on water district board


by: PHOTO BY RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Clackamas County sheriff's deputies again came to the first 'official' meeting since a physical confrontation between the Clackamas River Water general manager and a board member on Sept. 13.The stage is set for a showdown between two governing boards that both think they’re entitled to run water service to 80,000 customers in unincorporated Clackamas County.

At the same time, two people remaining on the Clackamas River Water board now could face a recall by ratepayers unhappy with the infighting.

Commissioners Patricia Holloway and Grafton Sterling voted last week to appoint new two commissioners to the special district’s board, in an attempt to block Clackamas County commissioners’ plans to step in and make appointments.

During the Oct. 30 meeting involving Holloway and Sterling, former County Commissioner Larry Sowa was appointed in absentia to fill one position left vacant by a resignation. Holloway and Sterling also voted to appoint retired real-estate manager Jeff Monroy, president of the Hunter Heights Homeowners Association in unincorporated Oregon City, to another position.

Monroy then voted with Holloway and Sterling to place General Manager Lee Moore on administrative leave, “in order to protect CRW interests,” and declined to comment further on the decision.

A notary public swore in Sowa on Wednesday.

On Friday, ratepayer Naomi Angier filed a petition to recall Holloway and Sterling.

“The bottom line is that things have spun out of control with the county, because they don’t have the legal standing to run CRW,” Holloway said.

At issue, however, is whether the CRW commissioners’ appointments took place during an “official” meeting.

Holloway said the Oct. 30 meeting followed Oregon law defining a quorum as “a majority of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter by the voting group” of three. With Mike Cardwell’s resignation from the board in July, she and Sterling consider Board President Kami Kehoe to have vacated her position under state law by moving out of the district (“Water board clash could boot member,” Oct. 3).

But that opinion is disputed by several key CRW players, including Moore, who said that Kehoe had not resigned, therefore requiring a quorum of three. Moore said attorneys from Clackamas County government and CRW have made it clear that Kehoe remained on the board until she and Board Secretary Barbara Kemper both resigned on Oct. 31, meaning during last week’s meeting there were legally four board members, not three.

“CRW attorney Dean Phillips and Gary Schmidt with the county have both informed me that this action is illegal,” Moore said. “Once the county completes its process, hopefully we won’t have elected officials engaging in this behavior.”

Deputies respond

Holloway and Sterling also agreed to fire CRW attorney Dean Phillips last week, replacing him with St. Helens attorney James D. Huffman, who wrote in a seven-page opinion that the board consisted of three members, not four. Huffman, who represented Holloway in her legal fight with the board on access to documents, said that the county could have intervened in a two-member board, giving Holloway and Sterling a narrow window of time in which to act.

Clackamas County sheriff’s deputies were called to this month’s board meeting, the first meeting since a Sept. 13 physical confrontation between Sterling and Moore. Holloway said she asked that a security guard call the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office because former CRW Commissioner Cyndi Lewis-Wolfram had been disrupting the meeting. Two sheriff’s deputies talked with witnesses for more than an hour but took no other action in the case.

“As a ratepayer, I am appalled at what’s happening here,” Lewis-Wolfram said. “This meeting was illegally held, and ‘making efforts to get another board member’ means to try to get the other board member to show up.”

Kemper was upset that the two CRW commissioners called a meeting on short notice “without even notifying” Kehoe. Kemper said that the board has no authority to act on the applications sent to county commissioners.

“Those appointments are completely out of our hands,” Kemper said before last week’s meeting. “I was not even asked if I might be available for a meeting, which I am not... so no business can be conducted.”

A parting shot

County Commissioner Jim Bernard agreed that Holloway and Sterling didn’t have the power to appoint two new members to the CRW board, saying he was looking forward to the county making the appointments on Thursday, Nov. 8, when Sowa will be appointed along with others from the pool of 13 applications the county received.

“We’re ready to appoint a few new members to the board and hopefully turn around this insanity,” Bernard said.

Sterling, pointing out that he won his CRW election against Lewis-Wolfram by a wide margin in May 2011, warned that county commissioners could be next.

“Bernard is barking up the wrong tree, and it’s my belief he won’t be re-elected,” Sterling said.

Angier will need 4,000 valid signatures to put a recall measure against Sterling and Holloway on a ballot.

In a parting shot to Holloway in her formal resignation on Halloween, Kehoe said Huffman was in a “precarious position” to accept appointment as CRW’s attorney.

“Mainly for the reasons aforementioned, but also due to the fact Mr. Huffman represents you in a pending legal matter, CRW v. Patricia Holloway, which is currently in the appeal process due to your application for appeal. This is clearly a conflict of interest peppered with legal ethics ramifications,” she said.

Holloway said there’s no conflict of interest because Huffman secured waivers as required under Oregon Bar regulations. As the new secretary of the board, she announced a “regular” CRW meeting to take place Thursday evening, just after the county makes a separate set of appointments.

County process

A selection committee looking at new CRW board members included John Hartsock of the Boring Fire District, William Wild of the Oak Lodge Sanitary District, Pat Bigelow of the Boring Water District, public accountant Gary Kerr of the CRW Rate Committee and Wilda Parks, past president of the North Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce.

The committee considered 13 applicants, who beside Monroy, were Sherry French, Michael Galvin, Lester Garrison, Thomas Hester, James Hansen, Kenneth Humberston, Hugh Kalani, Duane Karstens, Warren Mitchell, Steven Paden, Gary Rutledge and Allen Taylor.