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Weighmaster widow will sue

Troubled Clackamas County program hit with fine, lawsuit


Clackamas County is facing a $2.75 million lawsuit and a $2,100 fine in the wake of the on-duty homicide of Assistant Weighmaster Grady Waxenfelter.

The Estacada father of three was shot in the head Feb. 6 at around 10:40 a.m. during a routine patrol stop at the corner of Highway 224 and Southeast Amissiger Road near Damascus. The suspect, Dirck Morgan White, is still on the run.

Waxenfelter’s widow, Tedra, declined to be interviewed, but her attorney Robert Muth of Portland’s Kilmer, Voorhees & Laurick, said last week: “It’s a time for the family to try to move forward.”

Muth said he gave notice to the county of a lawsuit on Aug. 5, just before a possible 180-day deadline for wrongful death claims. The law firm estimates the economic loss of Waxenfelter to be $2 million with an additional $750,000 for pain and suffering. Muth did not have a date for when they plan to file the suit in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

Because of his role in managing the program, Clackamas County Weighmaster Supervisor Kevin Peterson was also named in the tort claim notice.

Clackamas County Administrator Donald Krupp said Aug. 13 that he is unable to comment on the pending lawsuit, but that he envisions a weighmaster program much more focused on public education and permitting to keep the highways safe.

“We just won’t be out doing traffic enforcement,” Krupp said. “That’s the primary lesson to be taken from this experience.”

An investigative report commissioned by the county had harsh criticism for the program and Peterson’s role in designing it. Though weighmasters around the state tend to stay at their weigh stations or in their offices, Clackamas County weighmasters regularly made traffic stops, considered by police to be a highly dangerous activity.

An Oregon OSHA investigation finished Aug. 8 and echoed many of the same issues. The state workplace citation

included a fine of $2,100. OR-OSHA spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros said investigators determined that though there was a failure to properly instruct and train the employees, the likelihood of a death resulting from that negligence was low.

“The fact that an event occurred doesn’t mean it was likely to occur,” Mesaros said.

The workplace code enforcement agency uses a matrix for determining fines, with a maximum of $7,000 for a high-risk situation or up to $70,000 for willful violations of law.

“It was not a willful violation,” Mesaros said of this case.

OR-OSHA investigators faulted the county for giving its weighmasters police-like vehicles and said there was no procedure or clear understanding of radio use nor ability to issue citations, detentions or arrests of violators.

“The program lacked any policies and procedures for guidance of weighmaster employees for stopping commercial motor vehicles found in violation of commercial motor vehicle regulations,” according to the report.