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Repayment claim is a surprise to former water commissioner

SHADY COVE — A former Shady Cove Water District commissioner denies a claim by the district manager that he loaned the district money.

Shady Cove resident Joe Ward said he was surprised by a recent news story that said he had loaned the district $100.

"I have never, in any of its iterations, loaned the Shady Cove Water District any money," he said. "Nor have I filed any claim with the present Shady Cove Water District for any reimbursement for any loan."

Ward was included in a claim for repayment totaling $17,310 presented two weeks ago to the newly elected water district board by Jim Collier, the previous board's president and general manager.

That claim matches information given by Collier in response to a Mail Tribune public records request in July 2008, which said Collier had loaned the district $16,700. Other loans included Wayne Barnes, $40, Bob Hawkins, $100, Dee Hawkins, $150, and Joe Petko, $220. All are former water district commissioners during Collier's term as board president. Joe Petko died in May.

Collier has said the loans being claimed were used for legal services, successfully overturning a 2005 election that would have dissolved the water district.

Last month, the current water board denied those claims in a dissolution plan submitted to Jackson County.

The plan is available for viewing at the County Election Office, 1101 W. Main St., Suite 201, Medford.

Ward said it was important that people know he was never a member of the Collier board. "I was part of the Arthur Smith board," he said, referring to the first water district approved by voters in 2002.

Ward resigned in October 2003, and after Smith and other board members also resigned, Collier appointed replacement commissioners.

Bob Hawkins, former treasurer for the district, said he and his wife had made many contributions while serving on the board, but the amounts given as claims were prepared by Collier.

Barnes, also a member of the Collier board, said he had made loans in the past, but couldn't remember the amounts and said he didn't prepare the claim request or the public records response.

"You'd have to get with Mr. Collier," he said. "He kept the record. Whatever was put down is what people have made. Receipts were written, but I don't know."

Collier is on a hunting trip, and a message was left on his cell phone requesting comment.

"I would not make a business loan without a written contract that would be a public record," said Ward. "If I had filed a claim with the present water district, that would be a public record. There are no such records."

Current board president Phillip Keith said nothing in the previous board's records substantiates the claimed loans.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.