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SRD PUBLIC RECORDS LAWSUIT-Update PART 2

11/19/18, 11:11 AM

John Stevens vs. Crooked River Ranch Special Road District, and John Williams, Commissioner, Defendant

Case No: 18 CV 03272

SYNOPSIS

As Reported/Posted on 11/02/18, the following report is Part 2 of a series of reports regarding the Crooked River Ranch Special Road District LAWSUIT and SETTLEMENT.

When a public body or elected public official refuses to comply with a Public Records Request, the requester’s next step is to file a PETITION FOR REVIEW with their local District Attorney. Because SRD Commissioner John Williams refused to produce requested records we filed a Petition for Review with Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche on October 11, 2017. On October 24, 2017, we wrote District Attorney Leriche a second time requesting he Review our Petition submitted October 11th, but we did not receive a response.

Absence a response from District Attorney Leriche regarding our Petition for Review, we wrote the Oregon Attorney General’s Office seeking Guidance. Shortly thereafter the Assistant Attorney General responded and conveyed that if a requester’s Petition for Review with the District Attorney’s Office proves unsatisfactory the requester needs to file a Public Records Lawsuit.

On November 2, 2017, we submitted another Petition for Review with District Attorney Leriche asking for his intervention in accordance with Oregon’s Public Records Law, quickly followed by another Petition for Review submitted November 6, 2017, with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.

We received an email response from District Attorney Hummel dated November 7, 2017, explaining jurisdiction “rests either with the Jefferson County Circuit Court or the Jefferson County District Attorney.” District Attorney Hummel added, “If John Williams, or any other elected official of the Road District, denied your request the proper venue for your appeal is the Jefferson County Circuit Court (see ORS 192.408).” District Attorney Hummel’s letter was copied to Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche and interestingly, we received an email response from District Attorney Leriche the very same day- November 7, 2017.

District Attorney’s Leriche’s November 7, 2017, email confirmed he spoke with the SRD attorney and was satisfied with his response. However, we still hadn’t received any of the requested records and Leriche added the SRD “wishes to be cooperative…” ???

The Petition for Review process fell on deaf ears and even though the Assistant Attorney General stated the next step is suing for Records, we wrote the Jefferson County Commissioners on December 8, 2017, Requesting they Investigate the SRD based in part on the SRD’s failure to act in several areas contrary to the law and best interests of the tax paying citizens of Jefferson County. We were hopeful the Commissioners would at least see the need to ask some questions and provide some oversight, but we were wrong.

On January 10, 2018, we attended the Jefferson County Commissioners Meeting regarding the December 8, 2017, Investigative Request.


The County Commissioners quickly reviewed our request and just as quickly dismissed it. Their brief assessment determined they have no jurisdiction and Commissioner Mike Ahern added, it’s a “laissez-fair” matter-meaning little or no government intrusion.

As an aside, Jefferson County Counsel, Mrs. Alexa Gassner, wife of Madras attorney Timothy R. Gassner, scolded me for asking her some questions and ordered me to direct all questions to the Commissioners.

 

It should be noted that while Jefferson County Counsel Mrs. Gassner and the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners she advises, all agreed that the County has no jurisdiction in matters involving the Ranch Special Road District, she concurrently was heading up the Alternate Exit Road Public Works Project on behalf of Jefferson County. Further the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners intervened/appointed Rich Hoffman as our new Special Road District Commissioner on February 28, 2018.

The Public Interest aspects of this Public Works Project is significant. “The state of Oregon has a policy of openness. The most important advocate for open government is the public itself. The NEWS MEDIA often acts on the public’s behalf in seeking public records to inform citizens about the work done in their name. Individual citizens also perform this watchdog function using the public records law to inform themselves about how well the government is functioning.”

There has been a tremendous amount of misinformation, confusion and rumors circulating on Crooked River Ranch. It was our belief that SRD Commissioner John Williams was withholding or hiding records subject to Oregon’s Public Record and felt it necessary to obtain honest and accurate information which required filing the Public Records Lawsuit on January 25, 2018.

*Still to come, more reports regarding the Crooked River Ranch Special Road District Public Records Lawsuit and Settlement.

Ranch Matters Staff

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