200109-nrr-stateofcounty-01 (copy)

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman presents a State of the County address in January in Roseburg.

Recent news articles involving the Douglas County Commissioners claim the commissioners used federal money to fund premium airfare and cover the cost of lodging a pet during a county conference, but the stories don’t paint a complete picture.

Records released by the county show commissioners did use federal money to cover the cost of pet lodging and first-class airfare, but later reimbursed the county — either directly or indirectly — with their own money.

One of the most striking accusations raised in a recent article claimed Commissioner Tim Freeman used money from the Secure Rural Schools program to pay for his dog to stay with him during a trip to Sunriver for a National Association of Counties event in 2017.

Freeman did initially cover the entire cost of the stay with his county card. When he arrived at the resort on May 23, 2017, hotel staff handed him a bill and informed him he still owed $99.11 for the stay — which included the cost of the room, a resort fee, taxes and the nonrefundable pet fee.

But when the event was over and Freeman went to check out of the hotel, records provided by the county show Freeman made an additional payment of $71.37 — covering the $65 pet fee and $6.37 of associated tax.

Tamara Howell, a spokeswoman for the county, said Freeman used cash and his personal credit card while checking out on May 27, 2017. The resort receipt shows Freeman used a different card, separate from his county card, to pay about $11 of the pet fee and paid the rest a different way.

The resort receipt does not specifically indicate if the payment was made with cash and the county doesn’t have a cash receipt, according to Howell.

Records do show, however, that the county was reimbursed by Sunriver Resort for $71.37 — the cost of the pet fee plus tax.

Freeman again reimbursed the county after a personal purchase in 2019 when he received a last-minute invitation to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House.

A few days before the trip, county records show Freeman paid $2,020 for a flight to Washington, D.C., plus an $89 seat upgrade. Howell said the upgrade was purchased “to accommodate the larger stature of the Commissioner, as well as to comply with specific airline size restrictions for passengers.”

But after purchasing the ticket, the airline called back and said the coach seat was no longer available and that the only remaining seat was in first class, according to Howell.

Freeman purchased the more expensive ticket on the county card on July 3, 2019, but later, on July 26, 2019, wrote the county a check for the difference between the coach seat and the first-class upgrade, according to county records.

While it’s clear that Freeman reimbursed the county for these two separate purchases, it isn’t clear whether using a county card to cover personal expenses, even temporarily, is a good practice.

In nearby Lane County, using county credit cards to cover personal expenses is prohibited and personal purchases made in error require the purchaser to fill out a specific report. Purchases filed without an original, itemized receipt require a different form to be filled out.

In Douglas County, “employees are directed to only use County funds for official business expenses and not for personal expenditures,” according to Douglas County Human Resources Director Michael Kurtz.

“However, in reviewing these two specific examples the County has no problems with how these transactions took place,” he said in an email. “The first class ticket was purchased due to a last minute booking for a one leg of a flight to the White House (The flights were Eugene to Portland to D.C. and then the return flight were D.C. to Seattle to Eugene – only the Portland to D.C. leg was first class, the rest was “coach”). It was purchased on an emergency basis due to flight availability and was for official business purposes. Due to this Commissioner Freeman, under County fiscal policies, was under no obligation to reimburse the County for the difference for the upgrade to a first class ticket, but he did. The pet fee was reconciled at checkout on the credit card, which was used to hold the room. No County funds were ever used to pay for the pet fee. Lastly, all County purchases are carefully reviewed by the Management and Finance Department and are subject to annual audits.”

Lane County policies don’t specifically ban the practice of intentionally using county money to front personal expenditures, but Devon Ashbridge, a spokeswoman for Lane County, said the practice definitely isn’t encouraged.

“It’s not something I would do,” she said.

Update:

On Friday morning, The Oregonian published a correction about its claim Tim Freeman used Secure Rural Schools funds to pay for his pet's lodging.

"It does appear that a funding source other than Secure Rural Schools paid the cost of boarding Freeman’s dog at Sunriver Lodge in 2017. Nowhere do the documents show it was Freeman personally. He said by phone on Thursday that he paid cash and acknowledged that the invoices for the transactions were not clear.

"Charges on an invoice from Sunriver Lodge show the pet fee as part of a charge the county paid. But separately, the county’s credit card statement shows refunds in amounts that collectively appear to match four nights of pet lodging. A handwritten note on the statement says “AOC pd.” Freeman said he thought that meant Association of Oregon Counties, but didn’t know why the organization would have paid.

"Before publishing its original article online January 15, the newsroom asked Freeman about the pet charge. He did not dispute the apparent use of federal funds, saying he was unapologetic for taking his dog. Based on information that Freeman has provided since publication, The Oregonian/OregonLive is updating this post and past coverage."

Ian Campbell can be reached at ian@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4209. Follow him on Twitter

@MrCampbell17.

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(13) comments

Mike

Probably the most disturbing part of this utterly biased article is that it was written by the Editor of the News Review. When it becomes necessary for subscribers to read newspapers in Bend and Eugene in order to find out what is going on in their own county, one must question whether the NR views itself as journalistic news media or more likely a public relations department for the County.

nr77

Your comment is well spoken and an unfortunately accurate observation.

CitizenJoe

So: over $2,000 earmarked essentially for Douglas County schools got spent to fly Freeman to D.C. to hear Trump's deep thoughts about the environment. Well. It's all good, then.

Democrat

I apologize to Mr. Freeman for letting the "few" pusuade my already ascewed opinion of him. The long explanation cleared my mind. Nobody is perfect and when your doing County work the Commissioner seems to not be perfect but still in compliance. Let it go folks..I believe like one of the commenters stated that the Commissioners will be a bit more careful going forward. Let he who has no sin cast the 1st stone!!

sectorstar

I can't tell if you're being serious or joking here? You act as if this is the first and only time Freeman has committed a wrong deed and we should all just let it go? Something tells me you're another one of those clueless voters that doesn't research your candidates. Now if this WAS the only time hes done something wrong, than yes we can forgive and forget. But its just another thing to add to his already endless stack of wrongs over the years.

Umpquabob

Sectorstar, why do you always call people names. This time it's "clueless voters." Do you think it is possible you are clueless? Douglas County has done well with it's county government and 'clueless' voters. They don't need your help. And a comparison to Lane County clearly indicates you are clueless.

sectorstar

If you don't like what I have to say, simply scroll on or close your browser! :)

Also how anyone with half a brain can continue to support a man who is constantly dishonest with the public is beyond my logic and comprehension. One of us is the "clueless" one here. Hint: Its not me!

Mike

Douglas County provided 704 pages of Commissioner expense account history (made available to the public) in no specific order to the Oregonian newspaper. It's a jumbled mess. Its therefore not surprising a $65 mistake out of over $40,000 in expenses was made. I can not help but wonder why the Commissioners and the NR continue to challenge this total mess. Why cherry pick this relatively small sum as if to say it justifies everything else.

If the Commissioner personally paid for his flight upgrade to first class, legally shouldn't a copy of that check have been included in the original expense report public request data provided to the Oregonian? Why not?

Most baffling is the Oregonian's article points out Commissioner Freeman was contacted prior to running the article asking for his comment. He was asked specifically about the flight upgrades and pet fee. This would have been a perfect time, before the article was published, to set the record straight.

Isn't it about time the Commissioners just admit they made a mistake and move forward on doing the best job they can. I'm sure they've learned to do better going forward.

sectorstar

Glad I'm not the only one that wondered this either. Out of all the various spending questions brought up, he comes up with a "reason" for the least expensive, and now we're just all supposed to put the whole matter aside in a drawer and never speak of it again?

Connerth

Time for the crooks to go! They are complete liars !

sectorstar

So with some of this "corrected" information released by the county according to the article, was this same information in the stack of files they billed the Oregonian nearly $3000 for and they just "missed it"? Or did they bill the News Review for this new info too? Or Did Freeman just give out this info for free because he didn't like that for once he was on the loosing side of the table. I suppose you can now dispute some of these claims as to if it was ethical or not, but there still way too many unanswered questions about the rest of the info the Oregonian obtained, and I still have no support for Freeman or Boice.

Also the fact that in outer counties the type of practices that the commissioners here have been doing is either prohibited or " definitely isn’t encouraged" should probably be a red flag and eye opener to people here that keep voting for them.

Umpquabob

Outer counties? The writer states "Also the fact that in outer counties", which leads one to ask what star sector are these "outer counties" to be found in?

sectorstar

Pardon me for being human and making an occasional typo here and here. But if you take the time to look up the definition of "outer" (which is an adjective for outside), its not really out of context to use with referring to a county outside of douglas county in reference to what a spokesperson for Lane County had to say in the matter.

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