Commissioner Parry was kind enough to send me a thoughtful response to concerns raised here about the selection process and asked that I publish it and I am delighted to do so.
Dear Mary -
I’m sorry to be so late in responding tonight…but I am just finishing up after a long day.
The way it was explained to me by County Council some time ago, a commissioner has to announce a potential conflict at a public meeting before a discussion or vote on an item where he or she may have a conflict.
If it’s me, and I saw a conflict (say the county was to consider funding a project Parry Associates had worked on), I would automatically announce a potential conflict and recuse myself from the discussion and process. This is why we are not taking any money for the potential federal clinic overlay process for the county. Once I was appointed, Kendra and I donated our services to the county for this project.
I imagine (but I have not yet talked to county council about this), that council would also point out any potential conflicts for a commissioner. I also understand that once a commissioner points out a potential conflict, then any involved party may request the commissioner recuse themselves…and the commissioner must honor that request.
Again, this is my understanding, but as I have not been though this process, I will have it clarified by assistant county council tomorrow and get back to you.
I also wanted to tell you a bit about the selection process. When I appointed my selections, I made it very clear that I wanted them to vote with their heart…period. I told them I would do nothing to influence their vote. I only knew one of my appointees was a Republican (Penny Allen). I did not ask the others, as their political affiliation was not important to me.
Penny is one of the most ardent and successful conservationists I have ever known, who championed both conservation and preservation under the Wilson administration (on both the Coastal Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission). She was often at extreme odds with the administration for her stances.
I had the pleasure of working with Melody when we helped her create the framework for the Southern Coos Health Foundation. I was forever impressed with her inclusiveness and ability to bring vastly different people together for a common goal.
Karl Bender is fearless about championing small business in this county, regardless of the personal cost to his business or his family. You will find he also shares many of your views on both development and environmental issues.
Bob Sasanoff is quite simply an amazing gentleman who has dazzling and progressive thoughts about the diversification and future of this county (I also doubt he has ever considered being a Republican…but I do not know, as I have never asked him).
I told my committee members my faith was with them, and that was why I appointed them. If Comissioner Main and I had wanted to simply appoint, we would have done so (as the law allows). We both belived the fairest process short of an election was to pick as diverse a committee as possible and allow them to make their selection. I reiterated this in executive session when the question was put to us, “What if we pick someone you cannot work with?.” (As Gail of the World was the only reporter in attendance, you are welcome to ask her about this).
I told them an election might produce a similar result…but we would find a way to work with that person. The final vote was 5 to 4, and I do not know which of the committee members voted for Commissioner Appointee Messerle. That said, I take the same responsibilty for his appointment, as if I had made it myself.
(Two other potential committee appointees I had asked to serve were John Whitty and Molly Ford. John felt there might be a potential conflict if he served and Molly was evidently unable to return my message).
I have been hit pretty hard this week for simply being a Republican. I make no apologies for my party affiliation, but I find this interesting, as many of my dearest friends will tell you I have been excoriated in the past by my party for standing against party policy I believed was wrong. I am a Republican because I believe in self-empowerment, local control, conserving our environment and state’s rights…things that have too often been abandoned by my party. Will I abandon my affiliation because I disagree? No. Is it much harder to stay and effect change? Yes. But that is the path I have always chosen.
Tom McCall has always been my hero. He had the guts to give us the Oregon we still largely hold onto today…and I believe that fight ultimately killed him. Would you oppose him today simply because he was a Republican? Would you assume his party affiliation gave him some terrible hidden agenda? After I read what you wrote, it seems so? We may have had our differences, but I have always thought so much more of you than that.
We have the opportunity to effect some amazing possibilities in the coming months. But if you…someone I have always believed embraces inclusiveness for a common goal…is
willing to shoot any messenger due to their party affiliation…then what can we accomplish?
I don’t know Fred Messerle very well, as I have really only gotten to know him since the first selection process several months ago (and I don’t believe he originally voted for me). But what I do know of him (largely through his work on the budget committee) tells me he is an honest and decent man. I have also had my differences with SCDC, but I believe they can play an important role in our county’s future by championing our small businesses and the diversification of our economy…and I have told them this.
My life has centered on fighting for what I believe is right regardless of my political affiliation or the potential impacts to myself or my family…and there’s quite a body of public record, public interest lawsuits, and my own published writing to back that up.
For the next 20 months, I will do everything my energy and heart allows to help this county position itself for a new beginning. That may mean holding onto to some of our past as we concurrently embrace a vastly different future. This is not a career for me, it is just my promise to the people of this county.
If I vote to hurt this county in any way, or not to protect the public trust, I’ll expect you to come after me with everything you’ve got. I won’t expect it though…for simply being a Republican.
I hope in my heart you can stand with me on some of these goals…because I believe you are a decent person who is passionate about what you believe in. The people of this county truly want a better future…we just have to trust each other long enough to allow that to happen.
I’m proud of all my friends…Republican and Democrat…and I still consider you one of them.
PS: Please post my reply to your note, Mary. I only took the time to write this tonight because I honestly think enough of you to respond to what you had written.
For the record I supported Cam Parry as an appointee and voted for Republicans Bob Main and the late Andy Jackson, I am concerned, however, at the lack of liberal voices on the commission as well as various committees. Below is my response to Cam.
Thank you, Cam, for the very thoughtful reply. First, let me say I have no issue with you and Bob being Republicans. Having voted for Bob, Andy and having supported your appointment I think that must be clear. Years ago, I was a registered Republican before I found the constraints of either party line too limiting and have since been unaffiliated for almost thirty years. That said, the Republican party, and maybe I should instead be using the term “hard right conservative”, these last ten years has not been a friend to the environment or small business or the working class. It is not possible to make a connection between political conservatism and environmental conservation any more, not since Nixon of all people.
If you believe my objections to the selection process used for all the appointments is because you or Bob are Republican, you are mistaken. Nevertheless, it has not gone unnoticed by me and others that the committees, the board, etc… seem to be heavily populated with “conservatives”. There are now three conservatives sitting on the commission. The commission is not representative of a working class county.
Most of the people selected for committees including the laudable industrial acquisition team do not attend BOC meetings, are not up to speed with what actually goes on at the county and simply do not represent the general electorate – this is my main objection. Reaching out means reaching out, Cam, and there is a wide brain trust out there being ignored possibly because they don’t cross yours and Bob’s radar in the conservative circles. Or, worse, perhaps they are ignored because the conservative circles don’t like them, like Jody for example.
Lastly, Fred Messerle and the Messerle family wield too much influence in the county already and my email and phone lines have burned with vitriolic fury delivered by dozens of people appalled that the commission would add strength to this dynasty. Since I am unable to do anything about it I have encouraged everyone who has contacted me to contact you and Bob, hopefully they will.
How the county will counter even the appearance of impropriety, regardless of how honest Messerle may be, is going to be a problem. Several people, myself included, are contacting the AG for guidance on what may constitute a conflict of interest.
Cam, I am still very pleased you are sitting on the board (well, except possibly for the obvious choices of conservative committee members) and I will continue to support you and Bob when I think what you are doing is in the best interests of the county and I will raise a ruckus when I don’t. Appointing Messerle, is not in my opinion a good choice for furthering progress in renewable industries in part because of his spousal affiliations with SCDC which is rightly seen as an impediment to green industry. (I can provide you with examples if you like).
No one believes, rightly or wrongly, the selection committee is responsible for his appointment. In the end, as you said, Commissioners Main and Parry allowed the appointment of Fred Messerle.