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Commissioner will pay for side trip

Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal will pay for his side trip to a leadership conference after his fellow commissioners objected today to the county paying for the trip.

Breidenthal has come under scrutiny for more than $73,000 in travel expenses over the past three years and his absence from more than 30 board meetings so far this year.

Breidenthal plans to fly to Portland Monday for an Association of Oregon Counties meeting, a trip that will be paid for by the county.

The same day, he plans to attend the Oregon Business Plan's 13th annual Oregon Leadership Summit. The fee to attend is $150 for local elected officials.

Fellow Commissioners Rick Dyer and Colleen Roberts objected to the county picking up the tab for the leadership summit.

Breidenthal agreed to pay for the costs himself.

"I will pay out of pocket," Breidenthal said.

He defended the summit as an important opportunity to learn about state economic development efforts, business needs and economic forecasts.

"It is vital information, but it is information that can be received in other ways," said Dyer.

Roberts said attending a leadership summit is something that benefits Breidenthal personally and he should pay for the side trip.

She also questioned Breidenthal's plans to fly to Portland for what is expected to be a one-hour meeting of the Association of Oregon Counties.

The association will discuss legislative issues, specifically the Oregon Legislature's use of emergency clause provisions. Some county officials in the state believe emergencies are invoked too often.

The trip to the association meeting is expected to cost $300 for the flight and $48 for a rental car, according to county figures.

Breidenthal will not be allowed to collect per diem expenses of $49 for lunch and dinner because it is his choice to extend his stay past the one-hour association meeting in Portland in order to also attend the leadership summit, according to county staff.

Roberts said in an era of Skype and other means to talk and hold meetings via the Internet, it is less necessary to travel.

Roberts and Dyer barred Breidenthal from voting about the issue of emergency clause provisions if the Association of Oregon Counties decides to take a vote expressing concern. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has not publicly discussed the issue nor taken its own vote on the topic.

"Your position may not be the position of others on the board," Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan told Breidenthal.

Driving to the Association of Oregon Counties meeting would have cost the county $126 for mileage reimbursement and $173 for a hotel at a Hilton Doubletree. Per diem expenses for meals would have been $96, according to county figures, for a total of $395.

In late October, Jackson County officials filed a 37-page ethics complaint against Breidenthal related to his travel and an Association of Oregon Counties account he set up in a bid to win election to the Western Interstate Region, a subgroup of the National Association of Counties.

Dyer and Roberts voted on Dec. 1 to strip Breidenthal of his title of chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners pending the outcome of any investigation. The three commissioners then unanimously voted Dyer as the new chairman and Roberts as the new vice chairwoman.

Dyer and Roberts also objected to Breidenthal using his wife's personal email account to email his response to the ethics allegations to their personal email accounts. Dyer and Roberts said commissioners should use their official email accounts, which are subject to public disclosure laws.

Breidenthal said there was nothing secret about the emails he sent and he was emailing his response to local media as well. He said he wanted to keep his fellow commissioners informed.

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

Commissioner will pay for side trip