Featured Stories

Why recall of a PUD board member is warranted

Dave Ehrenkranz is a former chemistry and mathematics educator and researcher. He is a Columbia River People's Utility District ratepayer and is the principal petitioner for a recall initative targeting Columbia River PUD Director Craig Melton, Position 2. Ehrenkranz lives in Warren.

First, let me applaud the employees of our Columbia River People’s Utility District for their extremely difficult work in getting power restored after the recent windstorm. I am glad they are there and appreciate the work they do under challenging conditions. I have always had positive interactions with CRPUD employees whenever I asked for help or information over many years.

I am sponsoring a recall of Craig Melton, my representative and one of the PUD’s five directors, not because I disagree with his position on an issue. That should not be reason for a recall. I am in support of recalling Melton because of the actions directors Melton, Jake Carter, and Harry Price used to make major changes at our PUD.

I should point out the process the five directors should follow in making decisions. With few exceptions, decisions are to be discussed in public with prior notice. If something is not on the pre-announced agenda it is usually added at the beginning of the public meeting. The few exceptions are discussed in executive session, out of the public view. Any action must be voted on in the public meeting. The media are allowed to witness the private executive sessions but may not report on the information they learn except for discussions not on the executive session agenda.

Within the last year, there has been one general manager and three interim general managers at our PUD. The long-time general manager, Kevin Owens, left roughly a year ago on Dec. 16, 2014, and Steven Hursh was promoted to interim general manager. Three months later, on March 17, 2015, Hursh was relieved as the interim general manager and replaced by Rick Lugar. Neither Hursh’s dismissal, or who might replace him, were on the agenda.

In fact, two of the five directors were unaware this was even being considered.

Some point out Hursh offered to step down the previous month, but his resignation was not accepted and he agreed to continue as general manager. The board’s removal of Hursh was not what he wanted or requested. He has been quoted in a Spotlight article, “It wasn’t expected. It wasn’t something that I had asked for.” The article can be found at http://portlandtribune.com/scs/83-news/254339-124180-rehired-employee-appointed-to-manage-columbia-river-pud.

How was this decided and how was the replacement chosen if two of the directors were not aware relieving Hursh or a replacement were even being considered? The discussion was neither done in the regular meeting nor the executive session. Where, when, and how was a replacement chosen?

Five months later, on Aug. 25, Lugar was let go and replaced by John Nguyen. Again two of the directors were unaware this was being considered and a replacement was not discussed. The board certainly has a right to fire a general manager. But, when this is done, it is expected to be an orderly process with time to search for and evaluate possible replacements. Again — where, when, and how was this decided? Certainly not in the public view nor with a proper discussion amongst the five — not three — directors.

My support for a recall is not based on the decision to relieve Hursh and replace him with Lugar, or the decision to relieve Lugar and replace him with Nguyen. It is the process Melton, Carter, and Price used that warrants a recall.

Major decisions such as these should be discussed in public and a public process is supposed to be followed. These items were not on published agendas, nor were they properly added to the agenda. They were also not items which were identified to be discussed in executive session and, according to people who witnessed the executive session, were not discussed. They came as a surprise to two of the board members at the end of the public board meetings.

I am amazed that Melton, Carter, and Price seem to not realize they have acted improperly. I understand that everyone makes mistakes, but hopefully one learns from mistakes. Melton, Carter, and Price have, to my knowledge, not acknowledged they acted improperly nor apologized for doing so.

They should step down. And, if not, they deserve to be recalled.