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County closes cattle sale deal in staff meeting

A federal case is moving forward against the Columbia County commissioners, alleging that they did not follow correct legal process in dealing with a herd of cattle seized from a Scappoose rancher in July 2012.

Jane Baum, business partner to the animals’ former owner, rancher and accountant William Holdner, says Commissioners Henry Heimuller, Tony Hyde and Earl Fisher as well as the county in general were wrong to sign an agreement to sell approximately 167 head of cattle to the California-based Nevis Company before a foreclosure sale (also initiated by the county) had been completed.

It is not clear when the county entered into its negotiations with the Nevis Company. Records requested by the Spotlight claim that the county signed an agreement of preliminary discussions, a foster agreement and then a purchase and sale agreement with the company all by Nov. 9.

Commissioner Heimuller’s signature appears on the purchase and sale agreement. County Counsel Sarah Hanson signed the agreement of preliminary discussions. However, no record of public discussion could be found in the minutes of the commissioners’ regular public meetings.

It was not until a Dec. 12 staff meeting that the commissioners first appear to have addressed the agreements made with the Nevis Company.

After going into an executive session, closed to the public, the commissioners came back into public session to approve the preliminary discussion agreement, the foster agreement and the purchase and sale agreement.

The Spotlight had requested these documents in November and the records were released to the newspaper Dec. 13, the day after the county staff meeting.

When asked about this, Heimuller referred the Spotlight’s questions to Hanson who had no comment.

The Nevis Company agreed to pay the county a deposit of $73,218 for the cattle while the county agreed to transfer the title of the cattle to the Nevis Company if this was received through foreclosure proceedings against Baum and Holdner.

Holdner said he had no knowledge of the county’s actions or intentions when the cattle were moved by the Nevis Company from a pasture outside of St. Helens to a ranch in eastern Oregon in late November.

Baum, who now owns and manages Holdner’s Viewcrest Farms, LCC properties following a court order from a conviction in a water pollution case that forbade Holdner from running his cattle operations, is just as entangled in other charges involving Holdner.

The couple both face multiple animal neglect charges relating to the seized herd.

Following the seizure of the herd in July 2012, the county put a lien against the couple to pay for the cost of the herd’s care. Since the amount was not paid, the county began the foreclosure process. That sale is now set to occur Jan. 14.