About 10 people called for the resignation of two Douglas County commissioners Wednesday over alleged misuse of funding from the Secure Rural Schools Act, lack of transparency and other accusations.

The protesters — a couple of them carrying signs — spoke during the public comment portion of the commissioner’s weekly meeting at the Douglas County Courthouse and demanded the resignation of commissioners Chris Boice and Tim Freeman.

“Our intentions are to issue a citizen’s arrest at the next board of commissioners meeting and if they do not comply, and we’ll submit evidence to the state police in accordance of the law, (we’ll) issue the arrest if they do not resign,” said Zach Pond, one of the organizers who presented a letter of resignation to the two commissioners.

Billy Russo of Dillard said the commissioners need to be held accountable.

“They’re spending money on extravagant things that are not needed,” Russo said.

The protests were organized by Christopher MacKenzie in response to an article published by The Oregonian earlier this month regarding the spending of federal money by the Douglas County commissioners.

According to The Oregonian, which filed public records requests to access county receipts, the commissioners bought first-class and premium airfare, paid to travel with a dog while attending a county event and expensed meals without providing itemized receipts.

Douglas County charged the newspaper nearly $2,700 for the public records that showed the expenses for six commissioners since 2015.

After the public comments, Freeman offered a detailed rebuttal of The Oregonian article and the use of Title III funds.

Freeman said commissioners have tried and failed to change the laws over how Title III money is spent.

“I would love to spend those dollars in better ways,” Freeman said.

According to The Oregonian, Freeman spent $1,500 for 38 meals for which he provided no itemized receipts, which is in violation of the county’s policy. Douglas County spokeswoman Tamara Howell said the itemization policy was new to the county but did not specify when it went into effect.

Money used for these expenses came from the Secure Rural Schools program, which is earmarked for firefighting, wildfire planning and search and rescue efforts. The national program has given $3 billion to Oregon counties since its inception in 2000.

A county worker allegedly raised concerns about Freeman's spending in February 2019, but the commissioner continued to file dinner expenses without itemization, according to The Oregonian.

Much of the federally funded travel was to lobby Congress against restrictions on federal logging, according to The Oregonian. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who helped create Secure Rural Schools, has introduced legislation that prohibits counties from using the funds for lobbying.

In an advertisement in The News-Review on Sunday, the commissioners wrote, “Many of the questions presented to us from the Portland newspaper were of a personal nature with blatantly malicious accusations, speculation and assumptions that simply are not true.” The same letter was distributed Tuesday and posted to the county’s website.

The advertisement, published on page A5, was purchased after the commissioners submitted a guest column to The News-Review's that did not meet the newspaper's guidelines for publication. The News-Review requires guest columns be signed by a single author and be no longer than 800 words.

In documents released by the county, reporter Rob Davis of The Oregonian asked, “It appears that you and other commissioners have treated SRS Title III money as a personal slush fund. Would you agree with that characterization? If not, why?”

The letter from the commissioners stated that some of the upgrades were paid for personally by commissioners and did not use federal funding. Howell also noted that at times trips required upgrades because of the above-average size of the commissioners or because trips were scheduled at the last minute.

Chris Boice, the chair of the Douglas County board of commissioners, also released his own statement.

“We hope readers understand that local leaders don’t travel to these conferences because they’re glamorous or attend association meetings for the prestige,” he said. “These are important business trips on behalf of the people they represent.”

In their joint statement, the commissioners said they attend conferences to learn about forest management because “there is nothing more important than forest management for Douglas County citizens as it provides for all other services” and called the expenses “an investment in the future of Douglas County.”

Douglas County was also among the counties that won a lawsuit over how lands formerly owned by the Oregon & California Railroad would be managed. The counties will be able to manage the lands for timber production on a sustainable yield basis, which would be a minimum of 500 million board feet per year. Freeman previously noted that this would be enough to sustain the county’s budget.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

(25) comments

Forester353

I'm surprised that commenters like Sectorstar and Liberaljoe don't put up candidates capable of actually winning an election and simply replacing officials they don't like. With such obvious high IQ's and deep understanding of the people Douglas County, it would seem like a simple task. Unless possibly, the minority can't stop out smarting themselves, which giving such a high IQ is a phenomenal feat, but still results in finding candidates that can't win or once the do win can't function in the position. Maybe they are just fooled by the left drift of the NR and the majority of commenters, most of whom seem to have nothing else to do?

Mike

The NR published a "Letter To The Citizens Of Douglas County" from the Commissioners over the weekend regarding this issue originally reported in the Oregonian newspaper over 6 months ago. In their letter, the Commissioners make multiple statements which are proven untrue by a recent follow-up article in the Oregonian newspaper. I know the NR is late to the story, but why does the NR publish the Commissioner's letter with out following up with another article discussing the statements made by the Commissioners and the Oregonian's response?

MDudley

Freeman has his issues, no doubt. If he is not following county policy regarding expenses, then he definitely needs to answer to that, as does Hansen. Unfortunately, corruption and questionable decisions are rampant in government, on both sides, so what good does it really do for everyone to get so self-righteous and indignant over an article that didn't really expose much of anything if you actually read it? I'm also happy that Douglas County did not use my taxpayer dollars to support such a waste of time and energy. There are way bigger problems to address than whether multiple commissioners may or may not have misspent a couple thousand dollars over a course of several years in relation to billions (with a b) of dollars in funding for our county. There were no specific guidelines to go by, little feedback from the Forest Service and they passed an audit, so it seems they followed the rules that were known at the time. It's too bad that the commissioners don't have a way to defend themselves for all their own time and money spent on behalf of Douglas County and its citizens. All DC citizens have benefitted from the really minimal amount of travel and related expenses attributed to securing SRS funding. If you really think they can get the same results from a group email vs. sitting down face-to-face with those in Washington DC (or Salem) who control the legislation and funding, then you need a serious reality check. Also, if the commissioners could receive monetary donations from those that benefit from this funding, can you even imagine how many in this county would step up to help pay for the associated expenses? Hence, the reason they won their elections.

BTW my IQ is over 130, but I would never call anyone stupid who does not share my beliefs.

sectorstar

I wasn't referring to people being "stupid" for not sharing my beliefs, many of 1500 voters who couldn't be bothered to inform themselves of who they were voting for I'm sure probably shared my beliefs. Its the fact that people around here can't seem to think for themselves and possess basic reading and common sense skills. In my example I was referring too, usually when you vote for someone you inform and educate yourself about that person and keep up to date with them. In this day and age its very easy to do that with all the resources we have now and days. When the commissioner candidate dropped out of the race, he announced it both on his personal and campaign facebook. It was announced many times in news review articles relating to the days up to the end of that election. Several other local news and radio sites also posted it. Yet despite that all that......1500 people apparently still "missed it" or couldn't be bothered think for themselves? Thats very terrifying to me, and makes me wonder what else they're doing every day in public with that kinda mind set and IQ.

In the end though, the issue has nothing to do with if you are a liberal or republican, what Boice and Freeman have done is simply wrong and they need to be held accountable for once. Now a citizens arrest may be a little extreme and I really wonder if that would realistically even work or not. But having them removed from their positions at the very least would be more than enough of a great start to fix the problem.

Umpquabob

Here you go again, making statements such as "It's a fact that people around here can't seem to think for themselves and possess basic reading and common sense skills." You just don't get it, do you?

Just because people don't vote the way you do doesn't mean one iota of what you state they are. Perhaps those people you refer to who voted for a withdrawn candidate were actually expressing their support of the candidate AND dislike of all the other candidates. I doubt you thought of that. And you are probably not alone in that thought.

For reference material regarding how people vote, look at the vote results which show "Mickey Mouse" and "Goofy" received votes for an office.

Douglas County, in spite of its faults, is one of the best counties in Oregon. If you disagree, then move to Portland and see what you get.

sectorstar

No, I get it just fine. Sorry that you're not able to comprehend basic facts and statements in english though. God Bless!

By the way heres another FACT beings you seem to like them so much. Douglas Countie has one of the highest rates of welfare and unemployment in comparison to other counties in Oregon. Recent studies showed that 1 in 3 people here are on some type of assistance. Doesn't sound like one of the best counties in Oregon if you ask me. Anything else you'd like to add? I'm easily amused.

Umpquabob

Well written. Thank you!

CitizenJoe

Republicans have squandered every shred of any moral authority they once had for governing. Anybody who votes Republican in the next couple of decades is voting for a history of self dealing, lies, and corruption. Maybe, some day, they can redeem themselves. Right now, they deserve to go the way of the Whigs.

Mike

"Douglas County spokeswoman Tamara Howell said the itemization policy was new to the county but did not specify when it went into effect." Ms. Howell's facebook page identifies her as the County's Emergency Communications & Community Engagement Specialist. It's disturbing that she communicates information that is clearly incorrect, considering the County's expense account reimbursement policy is NOT new and has been in effect for 19 years.

Mike

My following comment was posted last night and removed for some reason this morning by the NR.................

The "Cash Handling Policies and Procedures" listed on the Douglas County Management and Finance website and approved by the Commissioners in 2001 specifically states reimbursement procedure requires, "supporting documentation in the form of original receipts." Furthermore, the same policy states, "Historical practices shall not constitute justification for deviation from policies and procedures set out in this document. Any employee who fails to comply with these policies and procedures shall be subject to disciplinary action. Significant violations may result in termination."

This should be very worrisome for taxpayers. If Chief Financial Officer Jessica Hanson chooses to not require proof of receipts before distributing reimbursement in violation of her own department's policy, it is appropriate for her department to be independently (not county) audited the past 10 years to measure how much taxpayer's money had been improperly paid to county employees without supporting receipts as proof.

Any employee who received reimbursement without an appropriate receipt is in violation of the county's 19 year old policy and should be held personally responsible for paying back the unauthorized reimbursement to the county.

Democrat

I've been saying to friends for a few years now that the county needs an audit...I'm totally not surprised about Tim Freeman because of him running his gas station that had no clients and the highest gas prices in town. Chris Boice may or may not be at fault...but Freeman needs to go..

MRFSYS

Oregon State law requires an annual CAFR -- Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Each Douglas County CAFR has been prepared by an "independent" auditor and then adopted by the Commissioners. One MAJOR PROBLEM with several recent CAFRs is the obvious omission of any mention of a series of monthly INVOICEs demanding reimbursement of the $14 Million in business personal property tax overcharges mailed to an estimated 6,000 damaged taxpayers. If someone is reading such a CAFR, but that reader is NOT aware of what's missing, such a CAFR might appear to that reader to be OK, when it's NOT OK. p.s. Douglas County's CAFRs are published at the county's Internet website. Please help yourself by trying to locate any mention of the $14M+ INVOICEs in any of those CAFRs. Please also be aware that those INVOICEs have added triple damages for racketeering (e.g. mail fraud), triple damages for elder abuse, and accrued the legal rate of interest of 9% APR compounded now for 15 years.

MRFSYS

Re: Freeman's gas station. I was riding on the bus a few weeks before he reportedly sold that gas station. The bus had stopped at the regular bus stop located on the sidewalk right in front of the adjacent gas station. I couldn't resist, and while the bus was stopped there, I voiced my concern about the gasoline prices that were posted for all to see: Freeman's gas station was charging $1.00 MORE per gallon than the adjacent gas station, and it was very easy to witness this difference by comparing the prices posted openly by both gas stations. My question is this: Did Freeman's gas station have a fleet fueling contract with BLM, and was anyone "skimming" a portion of above-market prices paid by BLM to Freeman's gas station? One bus rider asked this question, "Wasn't Freeman's gas station a full-service station?" I honestly don't think that mattered -- not if Freeman's gas station was a party to a Federal government contract to provide fuel to BLM's vehicle fleets. About 60 days after that bus experience, Freeman reportedly sold his gas station.

Concerned Property Owner

Freeman's hands are dripping with greed and behind the scenes Quid Pro Quo!

Him and Boice are getting big Donations to override Planning Dept. and allow the reopening of a Quarry in the middle of our Glide Neighborhood!

Mike

The "Cash Handling Policies and Procedures" listed on the Douglas County Management and Finance website and approved by the Commissioners in 2001 specifically states reimbursement procedure requires, "supporting documentation in the form of original receipts." Furthermore, the same policy states, "Historical practices shall not constitute justification for deviation from policies and procedures set out in this document. Any employee who fails to comply with these policies and procedures shall be subject to disciplinary action. Significant violations may result in termination."

This should be very worrisome for taxpayers. If the Chief Financial Officer Jessica Hanson chooses to not require proof of receipts before distributing reimbursement in violation of her own department's policy, it is appropriate for her department to be independently (not county) audited the past 10 years to measure how much taxpayer's money had been improperly paid to county employees without supporting receipts as proof.

Any employee who received reimbursement without an appropriate receipt is in violation of the county's 19 year old policy and should be held personally responsible for paying back the unauthorized reimbursement to the county.

Mike

Interesting to note my above 12:25 am comment was posted and removed hours later. It was reposted immediately after I questioned why it was removed in addition to two repostings of the same comment.

Momos

"I would love to spend those dollars in better ways,” Freeman said.

No, or you would have. What a blatant, condescending lie. How can anyone still support this guy? Who in the county government approved the reimbursements with no receipts? And Kress rushes to defend the fraud. I really had higher hopes for him. Many prior commissioners have leveraged that office into enriching themselves, these three are no different.

nr77

the county has required itemized receipts for years, it is in the original personnel handbooks

Mike

The "Cash Handling Policies and Procedures" listed on the Douglas County Management and Finance website and approved by the Commissioners in 2001 specifically states reimbursement procedure requires, "supporting documentation in the form of original receipts." Furthermore, the same policy states, "Historical practices shall not constitute justification for deviation from policies and procedures set out in this document. Any employee who fails to comply with these policies and procedures shall be subject to disciplinary action. Significant violations may result in termination."

This should be very worrisome for taxpayers. If the Chief Financial Officer Jessica Hanson chooses to not require proof of receipts before distributing reimbursement in violation of her own department's policy, it is appropriate for her department to be independently (not county) audited the past 10 years to measure how much taxpayer's money had been improperly paid to county employees without supporting receipts as proof.

Any employee who received reimbursement without an appropriate receipt is in violation of the county's 19 year old policy and should be held personally responsible for paying back the unauthorized reimbursement to the county.

sectorstar

I'm finding it a little disturbing that it took nearly a week after the Oregonian story for the News Review to have any care with reporting it to the local media. The tone of the article suggests that it was mainly only reported because of a "protest" and not necessarily because of the nature what the protest was. Its clear to me who the owner of the news review is "friends" with here.

With the prices the commissioners charge for the media to be able to get a hold of their information, its a wonder why the news review doesn't seem to report on their wrong doings more often. Over $2000? Does the NR even make that much in monthly revenue with the amount of subscribers dropping left and right?

Hopefully this info being available to the local pubic may open some eyes, but unfortunately from what I see everyday and apparently the low IQ of the people here (I'm talking to the nearly 1,500 people who voted for a commissioner candidate who was no longer running), they'll probably be re-elected again and continue their financial destruction of this town.

Umpquabob

Well, sectorstar, if you don't like "the apparently low IQ" people in Douglas County, why don't you just move your "star" somewhere else; perhaps back from where you came from. I'm sure those "low IQ" people won't even miss you.

sectorstar

I didn't "come" from anywhere. Sorry you can't accept the facts and reality of what really goes on in this town. God bless!

MDudley

It's funny because it has appeared to me that the News Review has moved more to the left the past couple of years. I'm guessing this is related to the younger, transplanted reporters as well as the liberal slant of the commenters. I wouldn't complain about something that has been working in your favor. Also, I'm sure our vote by mail system is partially to blame and we also have a lot of elderly voters.

CitizenJoe

This apparent corruption warrants criminal investigation.

NO1LOCATOR

Tip of iceberg when it comes to corruption, we are the tax paying have-nots , if truth be known they will destroy anyone that has proof and knows, then tells the truth !!!! Corruption funds its hidden self after a while !

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