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"COMMISSIONER REPORT"
JOSEPHINE COUNTY, OREGON
MARCH 2008

 

 

By Commissioner, Jim Raffenburg

March 25, 2008

NewsWithViews.com

Hello everyone. The Board is now offering the audio recordings of the Board of Commissioner’s meetings online, in an MP3 format. The website address is: www.co.josephine.or.us

Commentary

This month I have three topics to talk about:

1) My trip to Washington, D.C.
2) My request for back-wages.
3) The Daily Courier’s Easter “smear” article about yours truly.

My trip to Washington, D.C.

First of all, true to my word, I did indeed go even though Commissioners Toler and Ellis didn’t think trying to convince Congress to reauthorize the Safety-Net payments was worth a $3,000 investment.

Ironically, when other governmental organizations heard that I was there without public funding to pay for the trip, several jurisdictions offered to pay for a portion of those costs with their money, since they believed my presence in D.C. was worth it and in their interest, even though my fellow commissioners didn’t.

I will check with the new Oregon State Ethics Commission to see if other governmental jurisdictions can reimburse me for some of the costs and if they can, I will accept that money. Eventually, once Josephine County has paid me the back-wages they owe me, that will allow me to give more of that money to local charities.

My Washington, D.C. efforts resulted in long and tiring days. The first three days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) were spent in session as a member of the National Association of Counties Public Lands (policy setting) Steering Committee. We were able to get a new policy passed and adopted by NACo that opposes several (Environmentalist Industry supported) proposed pieces of Congressional legislation that would expand wilderness areas and increase logging road closures throughout the western United States. That was very important.

I also met with scores of Commissioners from across the country and asked everyone of them to contact their State congressional delegations to make sure they were supporting the reauthorization of Public Law 106-393 (the Safety-Net legislation). Most said they either had already done so or would do so before they went home.

Interestingly, every commissioner and supervisor I spoke with seemed to be facing the same type of funding problems we are facing here in Josephine County. There was one point that we all agreed on: government has become too expensive and people cannot afford to pay for continuously increasing property taxes to cover those costs.

The last three days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) were spent on Capital Hill meeting with members of Congress in a lobbying effort to do everything possible to get the Safety-Net extended for four more years.

Unfortunately, just like last year, we won’t know how successful the trip really was until sometime this Spring when Congress votes on the next military spending bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The best odds are we will get another one year extension if we get anything. A four year extension is a long shot at this point, but it is not out of the question. Senator Ron Wyden was adamant that we would get the four year version. I hope he is right.

My request for back-wages

Regarding my request for back-wages, since the Daily Courier is not interested in facts, let me explain my reasoning for asking for it at this time.

First and foremost, I did not request those back-wages so I could spend the money for my own benefit.

County Legal Counsel Steve Rich and Commissioner Dave Toler have turned this issue into a political dog-and-pony show by mischaracterizing my request and trying to make you think that I now intend to use that money for myself.

In January, 2005, Steve Rich and Human Resources Director Kent Granat told me that I could not cut my salary by ten percent as I had promised, explaining that only the County Budget Committee can adjust the salary of Elected Officials, and then only after the Elected Officials Compensation Committee recommends adjustment.

That left me with three options. Of primary concern to me (and to you too I would think) was that I not receive benefit from that ten percent of my salary.

First, I could just ignore my campaign promise, and take the full pay, which I never considered.

Second, I could take my full pay each month and donate the net of ten percent to charity each month. In hindsight, I wish that is what I had done.

Third, I could keep that ten percent in the county treasury and take a larger lump sum payout when I left office.

Right or wrong, I chose to keep the money in the county treasury until I left office. After several conversations, I sent Kent a final email on 1-25-05 telling him what I wanted to do, asking that he let me know if there was some reason it would not work. He never got back me with any concerns and when I got my first paycheck on 2-7-05, the ten percent had been withheld from my paycheck.

Let me remind everyone that my intention in cutting my pay was for me to not receive the benefit of ten percent of my wages, hopefully to set an example for other employees, that unfortunately, no one else in county government has been willing to follow.

On the contrary, our management employees sued the County over the benefit (not salary) reductions we implemented in September, 2005 and that lawsuit has now cost the county about $250,000 in legal costs.

(That cost is due primarily to Commissioner’s Ellis and Riddle making the AFSCME union employees “partners” in that management employee lawsuit by including a blanket “me-too” clause in the collective bargaining agreement that ended the 2006 strike. After that, AFSCME’s labor attorney became the management employees attorney.)

Back to my back-wages…..After the May, 2007 Public Safety Levy failed, Commissioner Ellis became very discouraged and told me he was going to start taking his full pay. He was quite vocal about how much he hated being a commissioner, saying things like, “Only X numbers of days left until I’m out of here”, or “Only X number of KAJO appearances left….”

I told him that I would begin to take my full pay also, since I too was discouraged, not by the Levy failure, but by the failure of the other elected officials and county employees to show any willingness to tighten their “financial belts” in the same way they were demanding that we ask voters to tighten theirs with higher taxes.

Then, one day I read in the newspaper that Dwight has decided to run for re-election and had told payroll to once again begin withholding ten percent of his pay. He has never explained why he changed his mind. I assume it is because he chose to seek re-election.

The point of my telling you all of this is that neither Dwight or I sought or received any Board action or permission to either withhold ten percent of our pay in the county treasury or to begin receiving our full pay last summer. In fact, the Board of Commissioners has absolutely no authority at law to interfere with the paying of any lawfully earned wages. In fact, it is against the law for any employer to do so.

Yet, Dave Toler and Dwight Ellis now claim “they have the authority” to interfere with the payment of my lawfully earned wages, but refuse to cite the law that gives them that authority.

Instead, they hide behind Steve Rich’s double-standard, psudo-rhetoric and false assertions about there being “no fund set up” to pay me from, when in fact there is. Why won’t they cite the law they claim provides the Board with the authority to break the law? They won’t cite it because they can not.

This would be a bad comedy were it not such a pathetic farce. Without making any decision at all, they interfere with my receiving my back-wages and call that non-decision a decision. (See the Minutes from the March 13, 2008 Legal Counsel/Commissioner Meeting or the Daily Courier front page article from March 14th, where Commissioner Ellis states quite finally that “…no decision is a decision…”).

Dave, Dwight and Steve refuse to tell our CFO to not pay me. Instead, Steve Rich tells her she has no authority to pay me, intimidating her into doing their dirty work. I said it was a cowardly action on their part in that March 13th meeting and do so again now.

This the same type of obstructive tactic Steve Rich used to deny Mr. Ward Ockenden the use of his real property, saying the county would not sign-off on a DMV Dealers License for one property based upon an alleged planning violation on another property.

I demanded that Steve Rich cite the actual law or code that allowed the county to deny that license, but all we got was the same double-talk Mr. Rich is now using against me. Finally, even Dwight had enough and in a 2-1 vote, agreed with me to approve Mr. Ockenden’s license.

There is something very wrong here and it is becoming a pattern.

I know Mr. Rich says he is “outraged” that I would dare to ask for my back-wages now, even though he was instrumental in causing the arrangement with Kent Granat in 2005. His personal opinion or outrage is one thing, but his legal opinions should at least be consistent. But they have not been consistent when it was his money at stake.

Mr. Rich was absolutely opposed to the management benefit reductions of 2005. When the loss of the deferred compensation benefit was set to affect him, he claimed then that the Board of Commissioners had no authority to deny him what he thought he was his due as an elected official, saying only the Elected Official Compensation Committee could make that type of change in his compensation.

In his 2005 testimony before the Elected Official Compensation Committee, Mr. Rich claimed he deserved to continue receiving the eliminated deferred compensation county matching fund benefit, when no other county workers were so entitled.

This same committee then approved all three Commissioners salaries at their then current full amount, along with Steve Rich’s continued deferred compensation benefit. The Commissioners full salaries have been budgeted for and approved by the Budget Committee each year since.

But Steve Rich now claims that the Board magically does in fact have the authority to deny another elected official their full compensation package. This argument by Steve Rich is as patently duplicitous on it’s face, just as it is self-serving at it’s base.

Believe what you will about my motives, but State Law is very clear, they must pay me these back-wages and the law also provides for a one hundred percent penalty on employers that do what they are doing to me.

Regarding the timing of my memo to our CFO requesting my back wages: On the same day (February 15, 2008) that Dave and Dwight voted to deny me County funds to pay for the Washington, D.C. trip, they were both prepared to approve new pay raises of between 15 and 30 percent for more than ten percent of the entire county workforce. Total cost for these raises is nearly one-quarter of a million dollars annually.

Neither Dave or Dwight asked any pointed questions of staff. Dave calls that “micro-managing” county government. When I pointed out the actual number of raises and the true costs, which had not been clearly presented to the Board by staff, Dwight decided to vote no with me, but Toler voted against my motion to deny those raises.

This meeting drove home a very sad fact with me. Once I leave Office on December 31st, there will be no more tough questions asked of staff. Had I not been in that meeting asking the hard questions, those raises would have been approved at that time.

I am sorry to have to report here that on March 20th, while I was in Salem at an Association of O&C Counties Board of Directors meeting, Dave and Dwight went ahead and approved the vast majority of those huge pay raises after all.

Obviously, one cannot trust my fellow Commissioner’s judgment regarding the expenditure of public funds. The combination of their lack of interest in cost controls along with their lack of interest in managing the details of county spending, combined with their decision to abandon any future effort to support the reauthorization of the Safety-Net revenues in Washington, D.C. caused me to ask for those back-wages now instead of in December.

Let me say it one more time before I move on to the next topic: I will not benefit personally from these back wages. I will donate the net money to local charities. At least that way, the People of this county will receive some benefit from this money.

The Daily Courier’s Easter smear article about yours truly

Last month I told you the Daily Courier was preparing a smear effort against me. Sure enough, on Easter weekend, they delivered their article with a typical front page “smear-line” meant to lead the reader to their desired “conclusion.” It is a yellow-journalism “tour de force” that would impress even the “National Enquirer.”

I suppose I should feel flattered that this Cabal of elitists and their paid mouth-pieces Dennis Roler and Dave Toler’s long-time lady friend, hack reporter Stacy Stumbo, believe me to be such a threat to their political agenda and support of big government and higher taxes, that they would seek out my ex-wife, who I was married to for only three years and from whom I have been divorced for 25 years, in an attempt to get some negative comments about me.

In fact, I’m glad the Daily Courier has finally stepped out from the shadows into the light of day so all the people of Josephine County can see for themselves what type of newspaper it really is. How very sad that this onetime decent newspaper, that used to quote our Founding Fathers in each issue, has devolved into such a disreputable, yellow-journalism, gossip rag.

Shame on them all. Especially Dennis Roler, who had already seen all of my documents verifying my background experience four years ago, before he fostered the first smear article during the campaign of 2004. But this time he himself is front and center in this latest attempt to “question” my background credentials yet again, in another smear article.

I truly feel sorry for Mr. Roler. He must be a very unhappy man to hold a grudge against a person such as me who has merely defended his good name when Mr. Roler knowingly allowed it to be falsely smeared in the 2004 election campaign. For more than two years, I tried to work with Mr. Roler in an effort to bring more transparency to local government. But in the end, he is only interested in petty revenge for my standing up to him in 2004.

So here he goes again, even though I am not even seeking re-election.

Is it his goal to destroy my reputation by using “factoids”, innuendo, and outright lies in the hope that my credibility with the people of Josephine County will be destroyed, even though I will be out of office in only eight months? Of course it is.

Dennis Roler and the Cabal he represents, are obviously afraid I will influence the upcoming election and prevent their newest golden boy from “ascending” to join their other boy, Dave Toler, on the Board of Commissioners. They want “Tax’n Mackin” to join “Tax’em Toler.”

In fact, in what might otherwise have been a coincidence, three weeks ago, just as I was about to knock on Josephine County Legal Counsel Steve Rich’s door, I heard my name mentioned. I paused for just a moment before knocking and heard Mr. Rich say, “We have to neutralize Raffenburg or he will kill any tax effort this year….” After I did knock, he went on to say, “I have to go John, I’ll call you back later.” John? John who?

They are clearly afraid I might be able to convince enough of you to not vote yourselves into poverty with the planned tax proposals you will face in September or November. They do not want a voice of reason to interfere with their planned scare tactics, exposing them for what they really are, an attempt to intimidate you in to voting their way.

In order to muzzle me, they are doing everything they can to destroy my reputation and good name in this community. If they can do that, they believe they will neutralize me. But in so doing, they reveal the utter contempt they have for all of you by assuming you will accept, or buy into, their tactics.

Their latest article throws isolated facts around as if they are gospel. Instead of fighting me on the community issues related to my job as Commissioner, they quote a bitter ex-wife, who I divorced after her unrepentant infidelity, as though she was an oracle of truth. Do any of you have an ex-spouse? Then you understand the absurdity of their effort.

They do this to me now, but they will not investigate their man Dave Toler’s clear and very close ties to radical, far left social change organizations. There is that contempt they have for all of you raising it’s ugly head once again.

I know from experience that the people of Josephine County are one heck of a lot smarter than these elitists want to believe and that you can see right through this poorly thought-out and desperate attempt to discredit my name.

It is a shame that Josephine County does not have a reputable, daily newspaper upon which to rely for important news. Maybe one day soon there will be a new newspaper in our county worth the cost of advertising dollars that our local business community spends and worth the fifty cents from readers to purchase.

As for me, I’ll get my news from satellite TV and the internet, which, even with all the weird websites that lurk there, is a more responsible and reliable source of news than what many people in Josephine County call “The Daily Discourager.”

Why would anyone ever again trust the Daily Courier to be honest in their reporting?

I do not trust them and I will not respond to their alleged efforts to represent themselves as honest journalists, by even addressing their smear article here except to say that it is more embarrassing for them than it is for me.

What’s more, why would the owner or publisher keep these two “yellow journalists” employed unless they too support this type of journalistic trash?

Why would anyone waste their advertising dollars or even 50 cents to ever again buy another copy of this rag? In fact, I have already been told by the owner of one local market that they will no longer sell the Daily Courier in their store.

It’s your money folks and this is your community. If you let them get away with this, you just help to forge your own chains. Starve them of money and support candidates in this next and future elections who will truly represent you and you will win back your county from these elitists.

[Editors Note: NewsWithViews.com took out a whole page ad in the Grants Pass Daily Courier at the cost of $1,765.00 for Saturday March 29, 2008 that will be on page 5A or 3A to help this peoples Commissioner. Anyone wishing to contact editor Dennis Roler here is the phone number, 541-474-3700 and his e-mail address. For those who live out of the area and wish to read the ad click here.]

You have more power than you may realize. Vote in the upcoming elections and also vote with your wallet if you are as outraged as you have a right to be about this type of political attack. Tell others how you feel. You hold the real political strength and power in this community by virtue of your numbers. Use that strength now while you still can.

All I have ever tried to do was hold local government accountable to the People and try my best to control the cost of government. These elitists can and will not tolerate that effort for much longer.

My efforts to do so have frightened this Cabal into resorting to this type of slander. If they hoped to have me resign as a result of this article, they have failed. I will serve out my term and keep telling you the truth until you elect others to replace me in this effort.

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Over the next few weeks, I will meet with the various candidates for the two Commissioner races and I will endorse a candidate for each position, including the Treasurer position, in my Commissioner’s Report next month.

As for all the false claims, assertions and innuendo’s of the Easter smear article, I make this offer to all my friends: Contact me and I’ll show you the documentation of my background experience and be glad to answer your questions.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this Report.

As far as the Daily Courier is concerned, good-bye.

Jim Raffenburg

© 2008 Jim Raffenburg - All Rights Reserve

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Commissioner Jim Raffenburg is serving in his first term as Josephine County Commissioner (Oregon). He was elected in November, 2004. He is married and lives with his wife in the North Valley area. Jim served eight years as either Chair or Vice-Chair of the Josephine County Rural Planning Commission and served two years as a Josephine County reserve Deputy Sheriff. He is a trained, Court mediator. Previous work experience is in both the private and public sectors. He has worked in heavy, commercial construction and construction management most of his life, including serving as Construction Administrator for NASA.

E-Mail: jraffenburg@co.josephine.or.us

Web site:
www.co.josephine.or.us, then click on the County Commissioners, then Jim Raffenburg


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Shame on them all. Especially Dennis Roler, who had already seen all of my documents verifying my background experience four years ago, before he fostered the first smear article during the campaign of 2004. But this time he himself is front and center in this latest attempt to “question” my background credentials yet again, in another smear article.