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Hansen vs. Hartman suit dismissed

Douglas County Chief Finance Officer Jessica Hansen’s $4.5 million lawsuit against former county assessor Roger Hartman over alleged harassment and whistle-blower retaliation was dismissed Friday. It appears the dismissal followed a settlement agreement between the parties, but the details of that settlement have not been made public.

Hartman declined to comment, and Hansen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The News-Review this week obtained a copy of an earlier settlement between Hansen and the Douglas County government, which had also been a defendant in the case.

On June 1, the Douglas County government agreed to pay Hansen $120,000 and her attorney $20,000. In exchange, Hansen dropped her lawsuit against the county and two other defendants, former county commissioner Gary Leif and assessor’s department employee Frank Lassen. Hartman was not part of that settlement agreement.

Hansen filed her lawsuit in August 2017. In it, she alleged that Hartman, Leif and Lassen, along with another defendant, Larry Saccato, had worked together to retaliate against her after she questioned Hartman’s ethics and competence. She had also accused Hartman of harassment for alleged gender-based insults.

Saccato, the only defendant who was not a county official, subsequently filed a $2.5 million countersuit against Hansen. His countersuit also named Commissioners Chris Boice and Tim Freeman, along with two other department heads, bringing the number of individual parties involved to nine. The countersuit was dismissed in March.

The conflict between Hansen and Hartman began soon after Hartman took office in 2015. Hartman viewed Hansen as controlling and bureaucratic. Hansen said Hartman referred to her using names like “bitch,” among other slurs.

Early on, Hartman objected to Hansen’s decision to build a wall that would keep Hartman and his friends out of the tax office when her office was closed. Hansen alleged Hartman had lowered property assessments for his friends.

Hansen alleged that the four individual defendants worked together to retaliate against her through Saccato, who used public information requests and letters to try to convince county officials that Hansen wasn’t qualified to hold her office and to allege she had committed mail fraud by sending out tax statements before she had a tax collector’s bond.

Saccato filed a motion to strike Hansen’s lawsuit against him, claiming it was retaliation against him for exercising his legal rights. His motion was denied in May.

In July, Saccato filed a request with the court seeking 24 admissions from Hansen. He wanted her to “admit” his actions hadn’t interfered with her employment, and that he had the rights to request public records and petition government officials for the redress of grievances, among other things. He also asked her to say her employment was unaffected by his actions. Hansen filed a response Friday denying most of Saccato’s claims. Her response acknowledged Saccato had the right to request records and petition for grievances, but denied he had the right to do those things “for the purpose of intentionally causing plaintiff severe emotional distress or for other improper purposes.”

Hartman retired in July, five months before his term would have ended. Heather Coffel, who was elected in May to replace Hartman, now heads the department.


Education
Roseburg elementary schools getting seismic upgrades

A seismic upgrade for one Roseburg elementary school is nearing completion while work has begun on another school in the district, thanks to grants from the state of Oregon to improve school buildings that have been identified as high risk in a major earthquake.

The seismic upgrade at Green Elementary, which is being performed by Vitus Construction from Gold Hill, started with preliminary work in April, but the main construction project was completed during the summer vacation while students were out of the building.

Green was the first elementary school in the district school to be targeted for upgrades, after it was determined to be “very high risk” by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

The agency conducted a statewide seismic needs assessment of critical facilities, that included public schools and community college buildings.

With the exception of two modular classrooms, the entire Green school campus got an upgrade.

Officials expect the finish work to take several more weeks, but that work can be completed while the students are in class.

“The main seismic upgrades have all taken place, and we have students back in their chairs, and we started school right on time,” said Tracy Grauf, physical plant manager for the Roseburg School District.

Grauf said it’s mostly just painting and finishing work that is left to be done at Green.

The construction, he said, has greatly strengthened the school buildings, which were in pretty bad shape. Prior to the upgrade, the state’s assessment indicated that there was a good chance that the buildings on campus would have collapsed completely in an earthquake, but now they should be able to withstand a much bigger jolt, he said.

“If we were to have a shake now, we might have a few things fall in, but the roof is not going to collapse,” he said. “With the work that’s been done, it should stay standing, which will allow the building to be evacuated”

The Roseburg School District was awarded state grants of $1.5 million each for Green, Fullerton IV and Hucrest. The district also got a $900,000 grant for improvements to Melrose Elementary School.

Preliminary work started last week on a section of Fullerton IV Elementary, including six classrooms, the main office and the gymnasium. But the major construction won’t happen until the students go on the December holiday vacation.

“They’ll finish any work that needs to take place inside the classrooms, potentially over Christmas break, depending on how invasive it is, and then some over spring break, but it could spill into the summer,” Grauf said.

Principals at Green and Fullerton IV said crews have been really good to work with.

“We’re just rolling with it,” said Fullerton IV Principal Katrina Hanson on Monday.

He said all of the schools that were awarded seismic grants must have upgrades completed by the end of next summer so funding does not run out. Those include Melrose and Hucrest schools.

The district has also been able to modernize some of the worn-down buildings during construction for seismic upgrades.

“As money allows, we try to give them a facelift and make them feel like more modern buildings instead of like a 1950s builidngs,” Grauf said.

The district is applying for funding for JoLane and Fremont Middle Schools, plus Eastwood Elementary School.

“If we were successful in receiving more grants, we would probably be into the summer of 2020, and potentially into 2021 to complete the next five, if we get all five grants,” Grauf said.

After getting the results of the 2007 assessment, the Roseburg School District had an engineering firm perform a structural evaluation of its schools in 2008. Based on that assessment, the district decided to upgrade the schools as the grants became available from the state.

Since the visual assessment was completed, the Roseburg High School gymnasium has been upgraded and other buildings that were built before 1972 are targeted to be upgraded when money becomes available.


Crime
Wolf Creek man arrested after allegedly buying stolen car

A Wolf Creek man was arrested Thursday after allegedly buying a stolen car with drugs inside and lying to deputies about his name.

Jared Snyder stole Ashley Sivola’s 2001 Honda Accord from her Glendale home two weeks ago, according to police.

Last week, a deputy from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spotted the stolen car pulling into the Burger King in Canyonville after she called Thursday.

As the deputy turned on his patrol car lights, the driver, later identified as 38-year-old Jeremy Jason Rymer, quickly walked toward the Burger King doors, according to court documents.

When Rymer asked why he was being stopped, the deputy said the car had been reported stolen.

Rymer said he didn’t have any identification on him, provided a false name and birthdate and said he bought the car from Snyder for $500.

The deputy was able to determine Rymer’s real identity and discovered he had a warrant for his arrest.

After he was arrested, Rymer told the deputy he had a bill of sale in the glove box but hadn’t shown it because it had his real name on it.

The bill of sale stated that an Ashley Shepperd sold the vehicle to Rymer.

Deputies notified Sivola that the car had been recovered and she requested that they search the car to make sure Rymer didn’t leave anything that would get her in trouble.

Inside the car, deputies found nearly 70 grams of methamphetamine in plastic bags and 5 grams of heroin inside of a Pringles can with a false bottom.

At the jail, Rymer told deputies that the day after he bought the car, Sivola’s mom — Cindy Davidson —flagged him down, told him the car still belonged to her daughter and asked where he got it.

When Rymer told Davidson he bought it from Synder, she cursed at Synder and sped off, according to court documents.

Rymer told deputies that it “threw up some red flags.”

When asked about the heroin and meth, Rymer said he just thought it was garbage. Earlier, he told deputies he had completely cleaned the car out, according to court documents.

When a deputy returned Sivola’s car keys, she told him that Snyder asked to borrow her car and later said he wanted to buy it. Davidson told Rymer that car wasn’t for sale, but when she went inside, Snyder drove away in the vehicle, according to court documents.

Sivola told deputies she never agreed to sell the car to Snyder or Rymer because she knew neither would pay her. She said the bill of sale Rymer presented was fake and pointed out that her name was misspelled on the document.

After Sivola went to pick up her car, she reported that the rear passenger window had been broken and the stereo had been ripped out.

Rymer was charged with two counts of heroin possession, two counts of methamphetamine possession, possession of a stolen vehicle, unauthorized use of a vehicle and giving false information to a police officer.

Snyder, according to court documents, was not arrested.


Education
Details released on Washburn's separation agreement

The separation agreement between former Roseburg Schools Superintendent Gerry Washburn and the Roseburg School District shows Washburn will receive a lump sum of $150,000.

The settlement amount is in addition to amounts earned and paid to Washburn by the district, however the agreement also stipulates that "no further salary benefits shall accrue to (Washburn) under his contract" after Aug. 31. A call Wednesday morning to district officials about how the settlement was paid for was not immediately returned.

No details concerning the reasons for his termination were made available, and board members declined to comment.

The agreement stated that the district’s response to the press or the public would be that “the superintendent’s employment was terminated without cause.”

By signing, Washburn agreed to release, absolve, acquit and discharge the district of, and from, all rights, claims or damages.

By signing the agreement, Washburn agrees that it is “a binding waiver of any claims against the district, including claims for age discrimination.”

Washburn was put on administrative leave on Aug. 9, when Robert Freeman was appointed as the interim superintendent while details of the agreement were worked out. His employment with the district was terminated as of Aug. 31.

Washburn had been in the district for three years. He was an assistant superintendent in the Los Alamos School District in New Mexico before moving to Roseburg

According to the Los Alamos Post, Washburn moved to Los Alamos in 1984 to work at a bank. He began coaching in Los Alamos in 1995 and started working for the school district in 1996.

Washburn served as assistant superintendent and had other administrative positions in the district, including time as director of human resources for one year and elementary school principal for three years.

He coached at Los Alamos and at Pojoaque Valley Schools for 10 years, and in 2000, Washburn was named New Mexico’s 4A Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

A search is underway for a permanent replacement for the position. Freeman will serve in the interim role for the remainder of the school year until a permanent replacement can be found.