by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Cattle seized from a Scappoose rancher charged with animal neglect graze in a pasture outside of St. Helens last summer. The case building around a herd of cattle Columbia County officials seized last year has taken a new, bizarre turn.

As charges of animal neglect continue to push forward against the herd’s previous owners, Scappoose residents William Holdner and Jane Baum, in the Columbia County Circuit Court, another case, filed by Baum, is moving against Columbia County in federal court, saying the county bypassed legal process by selling the seized herd to a private company in November before the county actually had full ownership of the animals.

United States District Court Judge Marco Hernandez issued a temporary restraining order against the county on Baum’s behalf on Jan. 7, halting a foreclosure sale county officials planned to hold Jan. 14.

The foreclosure sale would have likely granted the county clear ownership of the cattle. In a Sale and Purchase Agreement the county signed with the Nevis Company in November, county officials promised to transfer ownership of the cattle to the Nevis Company following a successful foreclosure process. The cattle had already been transferred to a company-owned ranch in Condon under a Foster Care Agreement, also signed by county officials.

“They left us completely in the dark,” Baum said about the county and the Nevis Company. “Until we read about it in the newspaper, we didn’t know where the cows were.”

The county rescheduled the foreclosure sale several times and had not allowed interested outside parties to view the animals prior to the sale, as previously reported by the Spotlight.

The county had also signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Nevis Company, promising to not reveal discussions to sell the cattle to the company. However, due to the county’s public nature, county officials were required by Oregon Public Records law to release the non-disclosure agreement, the purchase and sale agreement and the foster care agreement if someone requested them.

“I don’t understand how [the county] could sign a purchase and sale agreement,” said Baum’s attorney, Jacob Wieselman. “They seem to be treating [the cattle] like they’re their own.”

Oregon Humane Society agents reported animal neglect issues at Holdner and Baum’s Columbia County properties last summer. At the end of July, Columbia County officials obtained a warrant to seize the “worst of the worst” cows and calves from the properties. They expected to only seize 50 animals, said Sheriff Jeff Dickerson. They ended up with over 160.

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