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Judge dismisses water district challenge

A Clackamas County circuit judge dismissed last week a challenge by the remaining two Clackamas River Water commissioners to a plan that county commissioners appoint three new members to the panel.

Judge Jeffrey S. Jones ruled Thursday, Nov. 15, against a request by an attorney representing water district Commissioner Patricia Holloway that would have blocked the county commission from appointing new members to the board.

After the ruling, a notary public swore in new Clackamas River Water board members former County Commissioner Larry Sowa, Kenneth Humberston and Hugh Kalani, both of unincorporated Oregon City. County commissioners appointed the three to the board on Nov. 8.

Clackamas River Water officials had to postpone the swearing-in of the three new commissioners that had been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13, after a circuit judge put the issue on hold until a hearing on Holloway’s challenge.

Commissioner Grafton Sterling and Holloway claimed the county had no authority to replace three members of the water district board. On Oct. 30, they named Jeff Monroy to the board and then took several actions to dismiss the water district’s attorney and put General Manager Lee Moore on leave.

Wasted time

On Nov. 15, people representing both sides of the Clackamas River Water legal fight, loaded with court documents, packed Clackamas County’s courthouse.

The remaining two water district commissioners — Grafton and Holloway — argued that their Oct. 30 meeting was legally binding because they constituted a quorum after Commissioner Kami Kehoe vacated her position by moving out of the water district. They wanted the court to validate their decision to name Monroy to the board.

In the midst of the hearing, a circuit judge reprimanded an attorney for the two water district commissioners for wasting the court’s time with records submitted in the case and then requesting a new judge to hear the issue.

Judge Eve L. Miller noted during court that the county was “very short on resources” and was unhappy with the “wasted time” she spent on reviewing the reams of submitted records. Miller said she wouldn’t have read the paperwork for more than two hours that morning if she had known that the commissioners’ attorney James D. Huffman had requested she not preside in the case. She had previously heard cases involving a water district commissioner, so Huffman was concerned about potential bias.

“I have to tell you what kind of havoc you’ve wreaked around here,” Miller said. “If you want to practice in this county...you have to adhere by court rules.”

Huffman said that he needed a different judge because of documents he had discovered filed by Michael V. Nixon, an attorney representing Moore. Both lawyers apologized for the confusion caused in the rush to file documents.

The case went to Judge Jones, who dismissed Huffman’s filing for lack of standing.

After the ruling, Holloway said she was looking forward to getting to know Humberson and Kalani, and was glad to have Sowa finally take a seat as a CRW commissioner as well.