The Clackamas River Water District has been in the news lately. Two years ago one commissioner was in a bar fight. This summer a commissioner resigned. Next the Oregonian reported that the district spends more on lawyers than any other water district in the area. Commissioners file ethics complaints against other commissioners. The Portland Tribune has reported that commissioner Kami Kehoe has moved out of the district and is thus no longer eligible to serve. Lawsuits have flown. This afternoon Kami Kehoe and another commissioner, Barbara Kemper, announced that they intend to resign from the board at the end of the month. It all sounds very much like the Italian parliament on a particularly disorganized day, and today being the regular monthly board meeting, I thought I should go see for myself.
The board holds its regular meeting on the second Thursday of the month (today) at 6:00. At 6:15 the doors were still locked. At 6:45 commissioner Pat Holloway arrived and unlocked the front door (the water district shares the building with a private business). The door to the meeting room has a separate lock, which the general manager, Lee Moore, can unlock. He did not appear. It turned out that Commissioners Kehoe and Kemper (the two who intend to resign) were not able to come. Commissioner Grafton Sterling, who is generally allied with Commissioner Holloway and who was expected to attend, did not come either.
What resulted was a simultaneously entertaining, sociable, surreal, and Kafkaesque rendition of a board meeting, conducted in the building lobby, with only one commissioner. The small audience included reporter Kohr Harlan from KOIN, a ratepayer or two, and at least two former commissioners, Cyndi Lewis-Wolfram and Warren Mitchell. It turned into a Q-and-A session and then into something resembling speed dating, as Commissioner Holloway, the former commissioners, and the ratepayers moved between Mr. Harlan and me, each appearing to be quite reasonable. Ms. Holloway said that the district had been spending its reserve fund and not adequately dealing with the increased cost of water from the South Fork Water District. Ms. Lewis-Wolfram said that the fund Ms. Holloway was referring to wasn't a reserve fund, but a stabilization fund (more about that in another post).
I'll have more to say about this troubled district after I do a little fact-checking. Suffice to say that I found the commissioners to be quite engaging and accessible. Mr. Mitchell showed me the case number of the suit against him related to the water district, rather in the manner that I would show off baby pictures of the Laquedemitasse, many years ago, and Ms. Holloway gave me copies of her research into whether Ms. Kehoe lost her board seat when she registered to vote outside of the district. If it weren't for the news stories, I might have taken the gathering for a meeting of a group of cousins, amiably recalling the fancied slights of fifty years ago.