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Three on Parks board under fire

In a busy meeting Wednesday night, the parks board first received a petition with 89 signatures seeking the reinstatement of Scott Green as director, then was told a recall effort would begin against the three members who voted for his ouster.

The board then voted unanimously to hire a new director.

About 10 people came to the meeting of the Northern Wasco County Parks & Recreation District board Wednesday, Nov. 19. Dennis Morgan, who started the petition drive, said the process to fire Green “did not seem fair based on what I know of the process.”

He said Green went from “from glowing reviews to a pariah” and “if indeed there were issues with his performance there should

have been some process for him to redeem himself.”

Chip Wood told the board he was initiating a recall process against the three board members who voted to terminate Green: Catherine Whalen, Nikki Lesich and Travis Dray.

Wood said the district was in such dire financial straits when Green took over in 2005 that it was at risk of disbanding. Green got it in the black the first year and kept it there.

Wood said Green didn’t take his salary increase in 2010-11, and instead gave that money to the employees.

The district released information Thursday morning that showed the fiscal year before, in 2009-10, Green received a $20,590 raise, or a 34.76 percent increase, in an attempt to bring his wages more in line with comparable districts.

His wages started at $52,465 in 2005 and reached $89,931 this

fiscal year, in which he was given a 3 percent wage hike. His average annual wage increase was $4,162, or about an 8 percent per year hike.

Wood said the way Green’s ouster happened was not only a blow to the employee but was “a blow to the community.”

He told the board that the recall election was “going to cost the district $9,000.”

David McGaughey, chief deputy county clerk at the Wasco County Clerk’s Office, said that cost estimate was fairly accurate, since the pool bond a year ago cost $8,600, and was for the district only.

The district has 8,190 registered voters.

McGauhey said petitioners needed to file a prospective petition with the clerk, which includes a statement no longer than 200 words explaining the reason for the recall. Once the petition is approved, they have 90 days to gather the needed signatures.

McGauhey said they will need to gather enough signatures to equal 15 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last election for governor, which was earlier this month.

That election has not been certified yet, but somewhere between 850-900 signatures, which will need to be gathered for each board member targeted for recall, McGauhey said.

Once the signatures are received, the clerk’s office has 10 days to verify them. Once verified, they give the recall subjects five days to resign or respond with a written defense of no more than 200 words, which would be placed on the ballot.

If they don’t step down, the election must be held within 35 days of the verification of the petition.

If all three are recalled, that would leave the board with just two members, which would deny them the quorum needed to take action. The Wasco County Commission would have to appoint a new board member, and that person would join the two remaining board members in a quorum to appoint the other two board members, McGauhey said.

At the Wednesday meeting, Susan Joen told the board she didn’t understand how the district could fire Green without giving a reason why. The district’s attorney, Tom Peachey, told her “the executive director serves at the convenience of the board and they can be terminated without cause at any time.” He added that’s a fairly typical aspect in any director’s contract.

Joen said, “that’s difficult for me to accept.” She said she’d like to hear a reason why “all of a sudden” the decision was made to fire him.

She lives by Sorosis Park, and “we know what it looked like when Scott Green took it over and we appreciate how wonderful it looks.”

Donna Saunce said she’s been a volunteer and employee of the parks district. “Scott Green was my boss. I thought he was a great boss. Didn’t have any complaints about him.”

She talked about how when Green took over, the “district was so far in the hole, in the red, that we were told not to spend any money.”

But soon, under Green’s tenure, they were able to replace vehicles that had been held together with “duct tape and wire.”

“We were so deep in the hole at that time, it was Scott Green that pulled us out,” she said.

“The director that left at that time left a mess. I think Scott Green did a darn good job of saving the district.”

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