A TALE OF DECEIT
By Attorney Jack
October 16, 2013
Grants Pass, Oregon: -The history of Josephine County’s new compliance ordinance scheme is a tale of fraud and deceit. The description of these comprehensive regulations as “nuisance” ordinances is perhaps the biggest lie of all. Yes. The first ordinance, measure 17-53 on your November ballot, is a replacement of the existing nuisance ordinance but the four ordinances are a package. There is not one of them that is designed to stand alone. They are not aimed at nuisance management. They are targeted at land use planning enforcement.
Measure 17-54 vests enforcement authority in County compliance cops for violations of County ordinances, codes, rules and regulations. (Sec. 8.1) Measure 17-55 establishes “hearings officer” courts for violations of any County ordinance, code and administrative rule. (Secs. 3 and 5.3) There is only one nuisance ordinance in our present legal scheme. By contrast, there are untold thousands of planning department rules and regulations. It is simply a matter of deceit to call these things “nuisance” ordinances.
In an interview with the Illinois Valley News, Commissioner Walker told the reporter, “We wrote the ordinances so people can get a warning.” This is not true. The first the current board considered them was on January 17, 10 days after Walker and Heck were sworn in. Obviously, they did not write 37 pages of legalese in 10 days. More to the point, the ordinances were considered by the previous board on December 17, 2012. That board tabled them. Walker and Heck had nothing to do with creating these ordinances. They simply bought into them. Which was easy to do because both Walker and Heck have publicly complained about their personal problems with nuisance neighbors. County Legal, or whomever, simply gave them an excellent opportunity to use their new positions to deal with those neighbors.
Someone on the board obviously realized that this scheme of regulation had a history of rejection by the Josephine voters. The decision was made that they would be adopted by public reading of the titles only. They have great sounding titles. “An ordinance providing for the elimination of solid waste and nuisance conditions and repealing ordinance No. 90-16.” “An ordinance providing for an officer to enforce county ordinances.” “An ordinance establishing and providing rules for a county hearings officer and rules and procedures for county hearings.” “An ordinance providing for the enforcement of environmental health laws.”
The County charter allows for adoption of ordinances by reading of the title alone but that is legal only after publication of notice and posting of notice that the text is available for public review. These commissioners made no such publication or posting. They prudently preferred to attempt to sneak this new scheme into law without a lot of public awareness.
By pure good fortune, the public questioned what these were about and why they were needed.
The commissioners, at that point caught with their hands in the cookie jar, got into serious lying. Hare indicated the system was jammed with a backlog of some 300-400 cases of nuisance that weren’t being prosecuted. Walker said the backlog of 300 cases was a blight on the community. She said the present system was too tedious and cumbersome, often taking years to litigate. In addition to the 300 open cases, she claimed there were 50 cases tied up in litigation. None of this was true.
A check with the Clerk of the County Court disclosed that there were only five open cases in which the County was the plaintiff. One was for tax foreclosure. One was a title dispute regarding an easement. One was a land use violation. One case was the Angela’s Hacienda case involving an unpaid restaurant license. There was one case addressing a solid waste problem but that case was under order of dismissal for lack of prosecution. Hyperbole is one thing. But a stretch from one neglected nuisance case to fifty tying up the court system goes beyond hyperbole. It is lying.
An audit of the cases the commissioners called nuisance cases reported in 2012 disclosed 14 reports that had anything to do with solid waste or nuisance. Of those, not one had the requisite three signatures. Only two were even signed so as to possibly qualify under even the new ordinance. Of the remaining dozen, most were reports from other agencies or Rural Metro. At the rate of two per year, it will take a long time to get to the 300 cases Walker referenced.
At the time of the board’s adoption of the ordinances on April 17, the public requested they be made a referendum to the voters. Commissioner Hare opined that they were too complex and there was no way the voters would understand them. Walker said simply, “No way. Ain’t gonna happen.”
Of course, the public did qualify them and the referendum is happening on November 5.
Later, when the public asked for a voters’ pamphlet, Walker again said, “No way. There isn’t going to be a voters’ pamphlet.” Confronted with the legal demand that there must be publication of the text of the proposed ordinances, the board relented and agreed to a flyer containing the text. Asked to make that a voters’ pamphlet, Walker again said, “There isn’t going to be a voters’ pamphlet,” even if the citizens were to pay for it.
Walker has continually asserted that the opposition to the ordinances were spreading falsehoods and half truths. However, her denial that fines collected would be paid to the departments issuing citations was proven false by the ordinance itself. (Sec 18.8(B) She has said that the accused could ask for trial in the Circuit Court. Section 5.2 of the hearings ordinance puts that decision solely in the BoCC. She has denied that the accused must pay the fine before getting a trial. The ordinance says otherwise. (Secs. 13.1(B) and 18.4)
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Most worrisome of the commissioners’ deceit is their failure to tell all the problems associated with the ordinances. They have not mentioned that a property owner could be liable for twice the value of his real estate for a planning violation.
To his credit, commissioner Hare has realized they have poked a hornets’ nest and backed away from the ordinances. Commissioner Heck, although his ego will not allow him to back away, has done little more in the matter than earn himself the title Commissioner “Second” - to Walker’s lead.
Something is dramatically wrong with our representative form of government when our elected leaders have to hide what they are doing - and then lie about it when exposed. One has to wonder how long do we dare continue with this board of liars and cheats? Please vote NO on 17-53, 17-54, 17-55, and 17-56
Commissioner Cherryl Walker, Kangaroo
Court and Big Fines
2- Josephine County, Oregon: Sad Failure of Central Planning
3- Commissioners Cherryl Walker and Keith Heck Misinformed
4- Bureaucrat Cherry Walker - The Bully in Josephine County Government
5- What the Grants Pass Daily Courier Failed to Report
6- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 1
7- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 2
8- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 3
9- County Government vs. Citizens, Part 4
10- How Dennis Roler and The Daily Courier Politically Assassinates Fiscal Conservatives.
© 2013 Jack Swift - All Rights Reserved
Jack Swift is an retired attorney.
Actively involved in the Republican Party and local politics, Jack would
love to see honest Constitution following representatives in local Josephine
County government. Jack believes if we are to save America from the grip
of evil, people must get involved on the local level and expose wrongdoers
at every opportunity. He is putting that belief in practice.