Raw Republican Power Plays in Clackamas County

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

ClackamasOregonian columnist Andy Parker finds fault with the power games being played by two of the three county commissioners in Clackamas County. So bad that he calls Clackamas County "the laughing stock of the region".

(Read "Power play brings out ugly side of county".)

Last week, Commissioner Martha Schrader (a Democrat) was deposed as the chair - just a few months after Commissioner Larry Sowa changed parties (from Democrat to Republican), who then voted for Commissioner Bill Kennemer (a Republican) as the new chair.

With only three commissioners, just two can make any decision they want - and even a simple conversation between two commissioners is technically a public meeting that requires public notice and meeting minutes.

And that's the rub: It appears that Kennemer and Sowa may have bumped into Oregon's open meetings law. You see, just before Christmas, Kennemer called Oregon City Mayor Alice Norris to inform her that Commissioner Schrader would no longer be the county's representative on an important regional committee.

But, the commissioners didn't meet until December 27th to discuss the committee appointments. So, how did Kennemer know that Sowa would vote with him to bump Schrader? Cue Andy Parker:

The timing of Kennemer's call to Norris the week before Christmas raises some interesting questions since the three commissioners didn't even meet to discuss this year's commissioner appointments until Dec. 27.

How did Kennemer know for sure who the county's representative would be since the commissioners had yet to discuss it and it's against state law for two commissioners to discuss county business privately because they constitute a quorum?

Kennemer told me Friday he couldn't recall when he called Norris. And he defended the limitations of the three-commissioner system, saying the commissioners' staffs can talk.

He's right about that. But it's still a very flimsy, scary line that makes it virtually impossible for the voting public to track how decisions are made.

It's time to end the power plays in Clackamas County. Hopefully, voters will make some leadership changes this year.

[Disclaimer: I grew up in Clackamas County, and I also built the website for candidate Lynn Peterson - who is running against Commissioner Larry Sowa. I speak only for myself.]

  • clackacraft (unverified)

    While cynical poltical manipulations are nothing new to politics, this one seems particularly nasty. And while that may offend my sense of morality and fair play, those have been offended so often it's becoming difficult to produce a good bit of outrage lately. BUT, since Clackamas County does have only a three member commission and a meeting of two of them constitutes a quorum and triggers the open meetings law and they appear to be using their questionable meetings for nefarious political purposes that are not in the best interests of the people of Clackamas County,

    perhaps some of the good folks in Clackamas County (I'm in Linn) might want to file an ethics complaint with the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission. Instructions at http://egov.oregon.gov/GSPC/opinion.shtml. Larry and Bill (known to some of us as Grumpy and Daffy) have run the county as their personal property for too long. Something like this might help right the ship of state in the home of Oregon's first city.

  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)

    So with Kennemer as Chair does that mean he's not going to run against Martha's husband Kurt?

    P.S. Mr. Sowa have you ever heard the expression, "Hell have no wrath like a woman scored."

    Dude, I have one piece of advice for you, if and when you lose control of the commission I recommend two options: 1.) Run...not out of the county...not out of the state...but off the continent (I hear the Schraders aren't fans of Mongolia so that might be a great place to hide) or 2.) If you are just to power hungry to give up your position I would remove your testicles from your body and put them in a safety deposit box otherwise I guarantee that you Martha will be serving them at the Rocky Mountain Oyster festival this fall. Sleep tight!

  • Clackamas (unverified)

    Anyone who follows Clackamas County know that the Chair of the Commission rotates year to year. Martha just finished her year. Sowa always defers. It was no secret it was Kennemer's turn as Chair. It was only natural for him to start making decisions. I don't believe there was anything closed door here. Yeah... Martha might be mad that Kennemer is looking to run against her husband but there is not much else to see here.

  • pdxdem (unverified)

    they need two more commissioners to keep things even and fair

  • (Show?)

    WARNING: I have no documentation for the allegations in this comment. I will say that I absolutely trust my sources as folks of unimpeachable integrity. Make of it what you will.

    While we're in the area, does anyone have info on Kennemer's wife getting a position with the county. A little birdie said that they fired a competent professional to do it.

    If true, this could certainly be added to the steaming pile of excrement covering a lot of Repub movers and shakers in our county.

    I mean think about it. In addition to the miscreants mentioned in Lynn's post, one should never forget the shining examples of Moral rectitude embodied in Wayne Scott (R-Canby) who is Karen Minnis' Tom DeLay; and Tootie Smith (R-Clack county party chair) who held up a bill directed toward Clackamas County last year in the house because her part of the county didn't get a big enough piece of the action.

    Finally, lest we forget, there was the Sowa play regarding "due diligence" in the development of the Stafford Triangle before the elections.

    Again, this is a "little birdie" story but it's basically that developers offered support and funding only to those candidates who were willing to bypass the whole messy commissioner review process and go straight to groundbreaking following the election. Apparently Mr. Sowa had no qualms, although apparently both Kennemer and Schrader came down on the side of ........well....doing their damned jobs.

    He's the reform candidate, Daddy.

    • Yeah? -

    A lot of people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some.

    I'll reform you, you soft-headed son of a bitch. How we gonna run reform? We're the incumbent! Is that the best you can come up with? Reform?! Weepin' Jesus on the cross. That's it! Start drafting my concession speech right now.-Charles Durning talking to his son in Oh Brother Where Art Thou

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Hey, someone has to make the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners look good. I'm proud that our county has accepted the task.

  • Lisa Batey (unverified)

    It's long past time for five commissioners, to break up their fiefdom and also to end the absurdity that two commissioners can't discuss a matter.

    But this is just one aspect of the problem with how Clackamas County does business. Backroom dealings with select constituencies is another. A few months ago over a ballfields project, now with a group of anti-govt petitioners over the future of wastewater treatment in the county. See more at dontwasteclackamas.org

    [Grumpy and Daffy? I love it, although I'm not sure who is who. Or do they switch off?]

  • Deborah Barnes (unverified)

    Lisa is correct. This commentary is just the tip of the iceberg into the concerns of residents in Clackamas County. Residents need to take a hard look at the practices of the majority of the County Commissioners over the past several months. The decision regarding Clearwater, expected to be publicly announced Thursday at the Commissioners meeting, does not echo the support of the majority of the City Councils in Clackamas. Milwaukie's Council voted unanimously to support the Clearwater decision, along with many other Councils which understand the importance of making smart fiscal decisions on wastewater in the County. So, who had a chance to talk to Sowa and Kennemer without hearing from us before they decided to stop the process from moving forward? Feel free to ask them...

  • (Show?)


    Five commissioners good. Three commissioners bad. Couldn't agree more.

    That ain't what this post is about though. It's about a couple of hide-bound old reactionaries who are threatened by working with, much less under an informed and intelligent woman.

    What are we going to do to protect our Clackamas County elected Democratic officials????

    Will the Oregonian follow up on this little gem? Where do all of the editors of the Pamplin (Community News)papers stand?

    BTW: We seem to have received an editorial upgrade at our Pamplin paper.

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