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Breidenthal demoted as chair

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to remove Commissioner Doug Breidenthal as chairman of the board in light of an ethics probe.

In another unanimous vote, Commissioner Rick Dyer was elected chairman, while Commissioner Colleen Roberts was elected vice chair. Breidenthal voted for the actions with Dyer and Roberts.

"I know removing a commissioner from chair is uncharted territory," said Roberts, who asked that the issue of the chairmanship be placed on the agenda for the Tuesday morning board work session.

Dyer said the ethics probe has created a distraction.

"It does impact our ability to do our job effectively," he said.

Dyer and Roberts said they would reserve any judgment about whether Breidenthal is guilty or innocent of the ethics allegations.

Breidenthal said there is no official ethics investigation underway. He said the Oregon Ethics Commission will decide in mid-January whether to take up the issue.

Jackson County filed a 37-page ethics complaint Oct. 22 centered on Breidenthal's travel expenses and contributions he received in an Association of Oregon Counties account.

Breidenthal said he felt coerced by county administrative staff in an October meeting to report himself to the Oregon Ethics Commission, even though he felt he had done nothing wrong. The county filed a complaint soon after Breidenthal met with administrative staff.

Breidenthal said he has asked the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate the alleged coercion.

Dyer and Roberts said there is now a strained relationship between Breidenthal and Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan. As chairman, Breidenthal served as the liaison to the county administration.

"That is not a functional relationship right now," Roberts said of Breidenthal's and Jordan's working relationship.

Breidenthal said the board would have been voting on a new chair and vice chair in January anyway, so it seemed premature Tuesday to vote on the positions.

He said the ethics allegations are unfounded.

"It's a sad state to have the great work we've done at the state and national level diminished. I've dedicated the last three years of my life to the citizens of Jackson County at great personal cost. It's frustrating," Breidenthal said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.