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Union rips off CRW ratepayers


Community Soapbox by Grafton Sterling

AFL/CIO affiliates of Clackamas River Water employee union members declare CRW workplace conditions so “unbearable” that two commissioners—Grafton L. Sterling and Patricia Holloway—must be recalled.

These disgruntled employees have so far spent nearly $23,000 putting boots on the ground in the recall attempt—almost $8 per required signature—money paid through union contributions out of CRW-ratepayer-paid salaries.

If these discontented employees are successful in getting the recall on the ballot, CRW ratepayers also get to pay for the special election. A failed West Linn recall attempt was forecast to cost the city $30,000, and that recall required only required 1,593 signatures.

So, what is really behind this flood of money to try to recall these commissioners? Perhaps it is because we:

1. Criticized the general manager for paying union employees a full year’s salary increase in advance on July 1? The lowest CRW union salary is almost $46,000 a year and the highest paid clocks in at almost $70,000—each got an up-front gift ranging between $650 and $1,000 before doing any work.

2. Criticized that same general manager—the union’s champion—for making an unauthorized $27,000 payment to the general manager’s personal attorney after commissioners Sterling, Holloway and Sowa voted against it?

3. Are trying to turn back a rate increase required to cover the union employees guaranteed salary increases of between 2 percent and 4 percent in the coming year instead of cutting expenses?

4. Are fighting the general manager’s attempts to move CRW water, operations and other assets into a separate, untouchable, CRW/Sunrise Commission. CRW salaries and benefits exceed comparable water districts, and the union would certainly find it attractive to add members and increase its power base. The publically elected CRW commissioners would be unable to challenge salary increases or benefits because the CRW/Sunrise Commission could charge CRW customers for whatever their operating costs the Commission establishes. Guess who gets to pay that bill!

The Oregon Secretary of State is currently investigating Chief Petitioner Naomi Angier for allegations of attesting to false information in the recall petitions, and investigating petition circulators for allegations of making false statements in several venues. Those are felonies that may result in prison terms of up to five years, and/or fines up to $125,000. ORS 260.555 makes public officials or employees who knowingly make a false certification concerning a recall petition subject to the same penalties.

It is my sincere hope that Clackamas River Water ratepayers see through the false information and support the two commissioners who refuse to knuckle under to these bullies and vote to protect ratepayer interests and assets at every meeting—even at the peril of being recalled.

Grafton L. Sterling is a commissioner of Clackamas River Water.