Doug Hunt: Lincoln County Commissioner – Commissioner Hall admonishes critics of the selection process.
Doug Hunt, one of three original candidates to be appointed the successor to retiring County Commissioner Don Lindly, was selected today by remaining commissioners Bill Hall and Terry Thompson to fill Lindly’s term of office which expires at the end of 2014.
Commissioner Terry Thompson said, and co-Commissioner Bill Hall agreed, that Hunt had extensive experience with large government budgets, having served on county budget committees for the last seven years, whereas his fellow candidate Theresa Wisner did not. Hall and Thompson said that in all other areas of qualifications they were similarly competent and proven. Hall said he would be proud and honored to serve along side all three of the candidates but that there was only one vacancy, which he said, is filled according to state law. Hall reminded everyone that state law requires that in partisan counties like Lincoln, where candidates are of a registered political party, party officials picks the names of three to five candidates who belong to their party. Those names are forwarded to the remaining county commissioners, the list from which a winner is selected. Hall emphasized “it’s the law we’re under.” Terry Thompson said “it is what it is.”
Hall read a statement surrounding the criticism roused by the process and of allegations of conflict of interest in the selection process. His remarks in full are at the end of this article.
Following his appointment to the commission, Hunt told News Lincoln County that he feels honored, humbled and excited to be given the privilege of serving Lincoln County as a County Commissioner. He said he looks forward to his formal swearing in next Wednesday morning at 9:00 am before the beginning of the next county commission meeting.
Hunt said the county budget is no different than any other in the state of Oregon in that costs are rising while revenues are stagnant or growing only slightly. He said he doesn’t want to single out any area for cuts but rather wants to explore forging new partnerships with other government entities like schools, cities, other counties and non-profit agencies to find ways to combine the actual delivery of vital public services through increasing economies of scale and operational efficiencies. He said he opposes any wage or benefit freezes on county workers. Hunt says he prefers to explore other innovative budget options which he would like to examine first. Hunt strongly emphasized that county financial reserves should not be drawn down just because the economy has been tough. He said “those reserves must be there in sufficient quantities to handle the emergencies that can and will happen.”
Public Information Officer Casey Miller offered these additional elements to Doug Hunt’s resume:
Commissioner Hunt has lived in Lincoln County since 1988 and until recently was employed by Umpqua Bank. His prior government service includes nine years as a member of the Lincoln County School Board, seven years on the Lincoln County Budget Committee, nine years on our non-profit social service agency allocation review committee, seven years on the Workforce Investment Board and four years on the Regional Investment Board. He has been involved in a wide range of community service activities including the board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), the Lincoln City, Newport and Toledo chambers of Commerce and the Lincoln City, Newport and Toledo Rotary clubs.
Commissioner Hunt will serve the remainder of Commissioner Lindly’s term, which runs through the end of 2014.
The following is a statement read into the public record by Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall:
“There are several things I need to say before I cast my vote today.
I wish many aspects of this process had been different. I wish that Commissioner Thompson and I were not in a position to have to substitute our wisdom for that of the voters of Lincoln County. However, an exhaustive review by our own attorney, as well as other lawyers, indicated there was no legal mechanism to put this vacancy on the ballot.
The procedures laid out in the Oregon Revised Statutes for replacing a county commissioner who is elected under a party banner are very clear. That party’s county Central Committee is tasked with submitting a slate of three to five candidates to the remaining commissioners, who are charged by statute with making the appointment.
Ultimately, the process produced three outstanding finalists. I think it’s extremely unfortunate that a number of people’s motives have been questioned and doubts cast on their reputations in the course of the process. I include the Democratic Central Committee, myself, and one of the finalists, Rick Brissette, among the victims.
A number of people have suggested that I have a conflict of interest because one of the other finalists, Doug Hunt, is the volunteer treasurer of my campaign committee. The headline and lead paragraph of a recent newspaper story focused on that fact, while failing to acknowledge that the other finalists, Mr. Brissette and Theresa Wisner, have provided support for my campaigns as well. Although these facts are stated further down in the body of the story, anyone who did not read beyond that lead paragraph came away with the impression that I owe Mr. Hunt a favor.
For the record: my vote will not be based on repaying favors. It will be based on who I believe is most qualified to fill this position.
In the interest of full disclosure: Mr. Hunt has served as my campaign treasurer since 2004, a fact that has been publicly available all along. He has also written letters to the editor supporting my campaigns.
Mr. Brissette has financially supported my campaigns, written letters of support, served as north county campaign sign co-chair, and co-organized a fund-raising event on my behalf. Ms. Wisner has written letters of support, made financial donations and volunteered for my recent campaign phone bank. And further for the record: I have known all three finalists for a number of years and consider them to be professional friends. Although our paths cross at many community events, I do not otherwise socialize with any of them. All three of them care deeply about the communities and people of Lincoln County and have worked to serve them in a number of ways. I have great admiration and respect for all three of them and would be proud to serve alongside all of them.
One news report said I didn’t think Mr. Hunt’s role with my campaign represented a conflict of interest. Our county attorney, Wayne Belmont, also says it does not represent a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, I gave thought to standing down today in an effort to remove any perceived taint from this process. However, Mr. Belmont says I can’t do that. The appointment must be made by a majority vote of the remaining board, and one vote of two does not constitute a majority.
But any bruising to my reputation does not compare to what has been aimed at the Democratic Central Committee, and especially two of its members, Mr. Brissette and the chair, Daniel Beck. I find it ironic that just about anyone who is now critical of the Central Committee could have been sitting as a member of that body if they had just been willing to fill out some paperwork and make a commitment to participating in the often mundane and thankless, but vitally important, job of cultivating Democracy.
Some have suggested that the commissioners should have taken an active role in guiding the Central Committee’s process. I can think of no more obvious signal that we were trying to influence the ultimate outcome than for one or both of ourselves to attempt to directly intervene in the committee’s process.
I am especially angry about the venom I have seen directed at Mr. Brissette. It is one thing to disagree with the stands a person takes on issues, it is quite another to denigrate his character through anonymous internet posts. The Rick Brissette I have known for 15 years is a gentle soul who cares deeply about people and whose only motive has been to make his community a better place to live. A decent and caring human being has apparently been driven from public life by the politics of personal destruction.
So we have come to a situation where we have people freely throwing around terms like “conflict of interest” and “backroom politics.” In a county of this size, where the numbers of people actively involved in political life are counted in the dozens, not the hundreds or the thousands, it is impossible to avoid the kind of relationships I have described. The only solution in situations like this is transparency, and this has been a very transparent process.
No step in this process has been taken without anyone who cared enough to inform himself or herself of the relationships involved. Every member of the central committee is aware of the personal and business relationship between Mr. Beck and Mr. Brissette. Mr. Hunt went out of his way to disclose his role in my campaign to the central committee. The decision to forward the names of Mr. Brissette, Mr. Hunt and Ms. Wisner took place in an open meeting. Our interviews with Mr. Hunt and Ms. Wisner took place in a public meeting. And now we are at the point of making an appointment in a public meeting. All of these decisions have happened in the light of day.