News, commentary, opinion and satire. The opinions expressed in this newsletter have not necessarily been endorsed by the JCTA board-of-directors. JCTA will correct any errors upon submission of documented facts. Compiled and written by Investigative Reporter John Taft
News and Viewpoint
Commissioners fail to respond to JCTA's request to hold hearings on finding culpability in botched process of Detention Justice Center! JCTA to hold public hearing and report to county residents.
Public slam-dunked on naming of the Women's Club building next to the courthouse. Authoritarian commissioners refuse to accept public input on naming of auditorium. Demand it be called Anne Basker Auditorium!
AGENDA: Is the establishment attempting to barbecue local businessman? Taxpayers may be getting a roasting also. Come and hear the story, hang onto your chair, and decide for yourself. Don't miss JCTA's Thursday night meeting at 7 P.M. Feb. 20th, Room 156 in the courthouse.
This fascinating tale began on a hot day in August when a sheriff's deputy at the behest of Bruce Cunningham of the Health department cited Jim Rossi, a local businessman for barbecuing. This act has set off a curious trail of events that began to uncoil in the county health department, then slithered into the district attorney's office, and wound up in Judge Coon's courtroom.
Why did the short-handed sheriff's department dispatch not one but two patrol cars to a public event to cite one man barbecuing spare ribs? Find out why a $1,000 fine was reduced to $500 and then $250. Was it to prevent a jury trial? And did Judge Coon say to the prosecutor and defendant after three and half-hours of trial time, "I don't want this case in my court; you go work it out." Is this case a political embarrassment for Judge Coon? What was the real reason behind stopping the first trial?
Next the district attorney's office wanted to play that popular game "Let's Make a Deal". What's the "deal" Michael Sanchez offered Rossi? And why did Rossi decline to play the game? What's the penalty for not playing the game? What happened to the missing three and half-hours of tape recorded trial time? Was it really erased by mistake? Has this case cost the taxpayers $20 to 30 thousand dollars? Is the DA going to retry this case? What's a new trial going to cost the taxpayers? Does the district attorney's office have unlimited funds to retry and prosecute trivial cases? What other questions are behind the creaking door waiting to escape into the sunlight? Jim Rossi tells it all in this Alfred Hitchcock like suspense mystery. Don't miss it!
District Attorney Tim Thompson, Health Department employee Bruce Cunningham, and Judge Coon are invited to give their perspectives of this strange episode "Let's make a Deal" that delves into the little known intrigues of the county legal system.
City Manager Bill Peterson has been invited to give the city's position in the paving of a lot adjacent to Jiffy Tops. A formally drained spring on the property adjacent to Jiffy Tops was paved over due to a city requirement, before the owner could use the lot for business. The paving over of the spring area has caused both surface and subsurface water to enter the Jiffy Top building. The city has offered a settlement, but Jiffy Tops owner doesn't feel the settlement will solve his problem. Come listen to the facts as given and make your recommendation for settling this problem.
Paul Walter will speak on behalf of his two measures to be voted on. One is Ordinance 96-15 the impound ordinance, and the other is in regards to the district attorney being granted the privilege of writing ballot explanations that interpret what the measure means.
JOSEPHINE COUNTY OFFICIALS CLAIM TO BE UNAWARE OF THE NUMBER OF DOLLARS THEY RECEIVE IN GRANT MONEY ANNUALLY. Is this a lot of flap-doodle or fact? A JCTA board member requested this information and received a letter from the Finance Department Director stating the information was unavailable and for a deposit of $810 the county would provide this information.
The truth is a county employee has already spent several hours researching how much grant money is coming into the county's budget. What was done with this information?
Why isn't this information readily accessible as a part of the budget? Are county officials playing games to keep this information out of the public's hands? Again it appears we have another credibility gap with county government.
The method of putting the county budget together has serious flaws in it. The commissioners have done nothing to change this. The City of Grants Pass has won awards for its budget manual. When was the last time the county won an award for its budget manual?
Starwars brought to you by your department of public safety preludes community policing techniques. Graphic brute force scenes (Daily Courier Jan. 14) jolt the community, macho men, faces concealed, bodies encased in special suits, holding automatic weapons depicting death and destruction practice "dynamic entry". Is your home next? Have a nice day. J J J J J City of Grants Pass, Tombstone Territory.
County Courthouse occupants fearful of attack? Short handed sheriff's department sends reserves to secure courthouse against possible terrorist action. Deputies check public for objects that could be used as a weapon or explosive device. King County Courthouse massacre cited as a precedent.
Commissioners latter claim it was only a practice session. I hope everyone had a good time!
Sheriff Calvert has slow response time in regards to answering questions about a possible sheriff's department newsletter. The newsletter is published as a neighborhood watch newsletter but appears to be for disseminating information favorable to the sheriff's personal agenda.
The newsletter has both the sheriff's name and logo prominently displayed on the front cover. I asked the sheriff in a letter if this was his newsletter and who is paying for it. Are public funds being used to promote personal interests? That question remains to be answered.
JCTA's letter was mailed over a month ago, and there has been no response up to our publishing deadline.
Commissionerís Haugen and Borngasser continue to enforce the gag-rule order at public meetings in the courthouse. Why don't the commissioners ask their legal counsel if he believes the gag-rule is proper or not? Apparently other attorneys have stated their views that the commissioners may be violating state and county procedure.
Are county government employees in good physical condition? Last month we discussed this and hope the commissioners are giving the matter their consideration. Good physical condition equates to a better adjusted individual, savings in health care costs, and greater efficiency in job performance.
An article in the Daily Courier by AP (Jan. 28th) expands on this point indicating that a fast food diet and smoking are conducive to clogging of the arteries leading to heart attacks.
JUVENILE CENTER HOT POTATO FOR COMMISSIONERS Commissioner Haugen tosses this one out the door. Haugen is quoted in the Daily Courier Jan. 23, '97, "The rest of the story is going to be coming up at some point, but not right now. There are a lot of other issues out there." Haugen appears to be saying if anyone is going to be burned by this "hot potato" it's not going to be him. The Juvenile Detention Center for which the voters approved funding apparently has been on the back burner without the heat turned up. The county is in desperate need of this detention center, and it should have been taken care of in a business like manner. The commissioners are hired and paid a high salary with excellent benefits and a fine retirement program. The public has every right to expect the commissioners to perform public business in an expedient manner or hit-the-road.
Haugen's response seems to be ducking the issue, and there does appear to be culpability on the commissioners' part. Commissioner Brock was sworn-in this month and is no doubt delighted he has none of this baggage to carry around.
It's "High Noon" for the county commissioners and time for them to put a big iron on their hip (the truth) and shoot off a few rounds of facts telling the public what's going on with the Juvenile Detention Center. If they can't face up to this issue their credibility will be left lying in the dust.
Be sure to read Daily Courier Editor Dennis Roler's opinion column "County risks its credibility with juvenile center mess," in the January 25 issue.
The commissioners must call for and hold a public hearing to maintain any semblance of their personal credibility with the public. The commissioners must be accountable for their actions.
It is my belief the commissioners will duck the issue of their accountability in the juvenile center mess and, unless held accountable by the public will attempt to place the blame elsewhere. The commissioners have no intention of holding a public hearing! This issue could easily escape out of the frying pan, and somebody could get singed. An attempt could be made to bring up other issues as a diversionary tactic using the old sleight of hand trick in which you have to decide which walnut shell has the pea under it. The commissioners appear to be deft at placing responsibility on others rather than accepting personal accountability themselves.
Former deputy sheriff looses suit against, sheriff's department and Dan Calvert in Eugene court.
If the decision had gone the other way the possibility exists that taxpayers could be paying out about $250,000. The deputy still has 30 days to file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Interestingly, these suits are not isolated phenomena. The information I have indicates the following sums have been paid out for settlements since Sheriff Calvert has been in office: $45 thousand, $35 thousand, and $24 to $26 thousand in court costs, and also the deputy who was shot with a hand gun using blanks is bringing suit. There are probably other settlements I'm not aware of. The county does attempt to keep this type of information secret!
How much annually are court suits costing the taxpayer? How many cases are won or lost and what are the expenses in defending the county against suits? Are these costs for settlements and defending court costs unusual? Do other counties experience similar expenses? Could any of these costs to the taxpayer have been prevented by a more judicious approach to the hiring and firing of personnel? What are the prophylactic measures available?
Should this situation be investigated by the commissioners and a public report made? Medford residents are pushing for a police review board; should Josephine County consider such a board?
Are the critics of government who complain they don't listen to us "right"? In a letter to the editor (Daily Courier Jan. 28) Peter Sparacino points out two issues where public input was ignored. The first was the Hugo Hills mental health facility. This facility was quite possibly saved from extensive damage due to the flooding conditions we experienced in early January, by the dedicated work of concerned residents. These men had brought a warning of this possibility to the commissioners before they approved the location for the mental health facility. A public commendation by the commissioners for the three days of work these gentlemen did would certainly be in order.
Don Huberty also brought up the deficiencies of the juvenile jail facility.
Both situations were ignored by the commissioners which in my opinion is not unusual. I personally contend most decisions are already made before public input is given. Public hearings are a mere formality to comply with state law. What does the reader think?
Former commissioner candidate speaks out on the old bugaboo of Josephine County "growth." Warren Troy, a no growth advocate, in a letter to the editor (Daily Courier Jan. 29) points out we are spending scarce tax dollars for infrastructure, this brings in new home construction and more job seekers. (The result, he concludes, is "an overall population increase by giving tax breaks to create jobs and spending tax money to bring in job seekers, we pay twice to accomplish nothing.")
Be sure to consider another facet of growth that affects the community. For every family with three children that move to the county the pubic school educational costs will be about $4,500 per child. That means another $13,500 to educate these three children for nine months.
As the tea leaves begin to settle it's beginning to look as though Governor Kitzhaber's grasp on the $383 million (tax overpayment) that's supposed to be returned to the taxpayers is slipping. It's not that the governor hasn't tried to appropriate this money for the schools, but the opposition Senate President Brady Adams and House Speaker Lynn Lundquist have a better grip on the morality of the issue. The money does not belong to the state; the law already declares what's to be done with the excess funds. Please follow procedure, governor!
Kitzhaber blows tax horn for more drivers to get off the road. Governor John Kitzhaber is at it again. Now he wants to tax you on your annual mileage. You pay every two years when you register your vehicle. If you're a high roller it could cost hundreds of dollars at renewal time. How does a $2 per month access fee to drive on public roads fit into your budget? He also wants an annual increase on the state gas tax of one cent.
His plan calls for taxing business vehicles too. Actually that's another tax on the public. A successful business has never paid a tax because it's passed on to the consumer in the form of higher costs. If a business doesn't make a profit he's gone!
Kitzhaber needs to realize we already pay at least 43 percent of our incomes to federal, state, and county governments. What happened to living within your means? What we need is a governor who can solve problems without raising taxes. The bureaucrats never get enough of our income.