A freelance news gathering service

Part of an award winning journalism team

Providing an interactive investigative news site designed to inform & elicit communication focusing on matters impacting Crooked River Ranch matters & beyond

SRD PUBLIC RECORDS LAWSUIT-Update

11/02/18, 2:17 PM

 

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

Case No: 18 CV 03272

As reported on 10/17/18, a Settlement Conference was held on 10/16/18, and an agreement has been reached. The Settlement Agreement is part of an on-going process with multiple steps. Attorney Tim Gassner representing both the SRD and John Williams and Plaintiff’s Attorney Robert Birk are working out the details.

There have been many questions and lots of rumors regarding the SRD lawsuit-reasons behind filing it and details surrounding the Settlement.

The following report is one of a series of reports regarding the SRD Lawsuit and Settlement.

 

Some background.

The CRR/SRD, primarily through its elected Commissioner John Williams, participated in formulating a transaction by which the federal government-BLM would grant a right-of-way (ROW) for construction of a paved road crossing BLM land in Deschutes County and outside the CRR Boundaries.

Jefferson County (and its County Counsel, Mrs. Alexa Gassner, wife of attorney Tim Gassner) participated, and has acted to arrange an Oregon Transportation Infrastructure Bank (OTIB) loan for the construction of this Road- Public Works Project, with the loan to be paid back by homeowner association dues paid by members of CRR HOA.

An agreement was executed among the BLM, Deschutes County, Jefferson County, the CRR HOA and the CRR/SRD (the defendant in my case) that once the road is built, it will be annexed into an inventory of roads to be maintained by the CRR/SRD.

The CRR/SRD is a government entity governed by three elected Commissioners, to act as a Board. During most of the period relating to this road/Public Works Project, three elected commissioners were in place. However, that changed dramatically during January through March, 2018, including a period when there was only a single commissioner, Mr. Williams, without a second commissioner in place to allow a quorum of the SRD board to decide or take official action.

.

As a resident of CRR, a member of the CRR HOA, a taxpayer within the CRR/SRD taxing district, and an investigative journalist, I researched how this complicated Public Works Project came about. It was my understanding there had already been a gravel road in place across BLM land serving the same purpose of the planned road, which gravel road could have been upgraded without the significant complications and costs posed by this new road construction project. Toward the Public Interest of finding out what had been planned, how it came about at whose urging, what its status was, and why the project was proceeding without any vote of residents or voters in any relevant location, I submitted my Oregon Public Records request for records from the CRR/SRD.

Additionally, any similar request for records from the CRR HOA, were ignored or told records of the CRR HOA’s Exit Committee did not have to be produced. The Exit Committee represented to CRR residents that it had fully disclosed everything everyone needed to know. CRR and its Exit Committee were not subject to Oregon’s Public Records Laws, and were invested in protecting its privacy on what it did not want publicly disclosed.

SRD Commissioner John Williams was a member of that Exit Committee and had served on CRR’s BOD as its VP. He was simultaneously an elected official with the CRR/SRD with a statutory duty to keep records; a statutory duty to produce requested public records; a statutory duty to do the public’s SRD business in public through SRD public meetings; and a public and ethical duty to advise the public that his SRD duty to disclose to the public his actions for the SRD by records and meetings was in actual CONFLICT with his Exit Committee duties.

After Commissioner Williams received my public records requests, he replied he had provided what he believed to be “pertinent” and proceeded to provide a pitiful fraction of SRD records known from Other Sources to exit. Further, Williams declared that no other related SRD documents even existed and nothing additional would be provided. Williams was video recorded making one of his such statements on 1/10/18, during a SRD meeting and through his counsel in his case/ANSWER denied making such a statement.

On January 30, 2018, Williams was served his lawsuit papers. Williams the very next day wrote to Chris Doty of the Deschutes County Road Department and told him he had been served papers, and after the fact attempted to say he-Williams had acted as a member of the private HOA Exit Committee while doing his elected official duties on behalf of the public on a public works project. Williams stated in part, “For clarification, when Bim Gander and I met with you in your office, I was representing the alternative exit committee, not the SRD.”
A couple of weeks later, Williams wrote to another local resident claiming he did not receive a copy of Mr. Doty’s ROW application form 299 submitted to the BLM “as a member of the SRD, I was copied on it as a member of the Alternative Exit Committee.” However, Doty’s 4/21/15 cover letter to the BLM ROW application specifically cited it was submitted “On behalf of Deschutes County and the Crooked River Ranch Special Road District.” Why was this ROW Application NOT kept as a SRD record?

Williams’s conduct, by the documents provided, demonstrates he deliberately withheld SRD records. Further, he individually exposed the SRD the costs of litigation and possible attorney fees.

MORE TO COME.

Future Reports will include contact with multiple public officials including Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins who stated “if it was me, I would refer the SRD request to the Oregon State Police or the Oregon Department of Justice.”

Ranch Matters Staff

View original Facebook Post here