Camp Sherman politico blasts commission
President of nonprofit group says she's losing 'trust and confidence' in county governmentNews Editor
July 9, 2003 — The president of a nonprofit conservation group based in Camp Sherman blasted Jefferson County's three commissioners Thursday, questioning their commitment to openness, fairness and the overall transparency of their actions.
Toni Foster, a former county planning commissioner who is president of Friends of the Metolius, told the commissioners that discretionary missteps pose a threat to the integrity of the county.
"I am losing trust and confidence in the working of county government as I have seen it unveiled since January of 2003," said Foster, who also teaches for the tiny Black Butte School District in the southwest corner of Jefferson County.
From a prepared statement, Foster read the commissioners a long list of obligations of public officials that implied she did feel they were upholding.
"A county commissioner should be vigorously dedicated to the democratic ideals of honesty, openness and accountability in all public matters involving county government," Foster said.
Further, Foster told the commissioners, the "sacred trust" they hold as elected leaders prohibits them to "mislead" the public, while requiring them to communicate the "full truth" concerning local issues.
Her comments were directed at no commissioner in particular. She said they were based on the public process surrounding three events since January: the reorganization of the treasurer's office, the proposed people's utility district and the dismissal of "a certain employee."
The employee remark was an obvious reference to the ousting of former adult community corrections and mental health director Dave White, who was the subject of a sexual abuse investigation launched by the state after allegations were reported by Commissioner Mary Zemke.
The investigation found no evidence that White had had sexual relations with three mental health clients. White subsequently was exonerated, but not before his position was eliminated while he was on paid administrative leave. He is suing Jefferson County.
The commissioners conceded a process misstep when they adopted a resolution on June 12 putting the people's utility district on the November ballot without proper public notice. That resolution was rescinded last week.
And discussions surrounding the proposed reorganization of the county treasurer's office have been punctuated by arguments among commissioners concerning anonymous notices sent to certain interest groups, urging them to offer public testimony.
Foster asked the commissioners to review the process they employed in addressing all three matters.
"In doing so, please ask yourselves, were there any discretionary missteps that might be avoided in your future processing?" Foster said. "Did your process jeopardize the integrity or cultural climate of the county? Did the process threaten the reputation of any employees? Did the process provide for the broadest possible public access and information sharing?"
Foster's testimony was met with no immediate response from the commissioners.