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County government when no one is looking

The Friday story by reporter Damian Mann headlined "Olney accuses county of forcing him out" was incomplete and confusing. A letter to the editor had been printed by a supporter of my campaign for County Commissioner in 2008 that questioned why the Jackson County Library Foundation asked for my resignation as executive director.

I didn't initiate any call to Damian or try to get the story told. Damian called me and I answered his questions but he failed to include all my answers. I would like to clarify some issues in my leaving the Library Foundation that shows how county government works when no one is looking and there is no paper trail.

I declared my candidacy for Jackson County Commissioner on February 4, 2008 after talking with the Foundation Board about my candidacy and promising them I would never use the Foundation office in the Public Library for any campaign purposes.

There were no questions or concerns from the County about my employment with the Library Foundation until I had won the May Democratic Primary and was the only person standing in the way of County Commissioner Dennis CW Smith's reelection.

Colette Boehmer and Becky Versteeg, President and Vice-President of the Library Foundation, asked to have a meeting with me the third week in June 2008. At that meeting they informed me that Danny Jordan, County Administrator, had requested a meeting with the Library Foundation right after the May primary. Danny specified he would like to meet with the Foundation and that Jim Olney should not be present. The Foundation agreed and met with Danny in private. I was not there.

Colette and Becky told me that Danny Jordan gave the Foundation two choices. One, if they wanted to keep their free office space in the Medford Library, they could not have Jim Olney, a political candidate, in the office on county property. Second, they could give up their office space and employ anyone they wanted. Now, remember, I had been a political candidate for four months before this became an issue with the county. Now, right after I won the May primary, it became a problem. Why didn't it come up before?

Colette and Becky wanted to keep the Foundation office space in the Library and asked if I would be willing to step aside. At the time, I supported the goals and purposes of the Library Foundation, which I believed in and worked hard to achieve for over three years as Executive Director. I had a campaign to run as well, so I resigned at their request.

After this decision, Colette and Becky informed me that they would not be filling my position until after the November election and if I won, they asked me if I would agree to help them find a suitable replacement. I said, of course I would.

I then asked them both if I lost the November election, would the Board consider reappointing me to my current position? They both agreed. This was not a guarantee but just a verbal agreement.

The Foundation did not hire anyone until after the November election and my name was not considered. When I called Colette after the election, she said "things have changed".

The two Foundation officers who "declined to comment" in Damian's story were the source of the story. Only they can say what Danny Jordan actually said at that private meeting with the Foundation. The process they described to me was high pressure and unnerving. Both Colette and Becky seemed troubled by the issue but felt there was nothing else they could do and felt obliged to ask for my resignation. For no other reason then I was a political candidate running against an incumbent County Commissioner.

I am not complaining or whining about the situation. I have successfully moved on. But someone has to keep track of the out-of-control County government. Who is going to do this?

Jim Olney is the former executive director of the Jackson County Library Foundation.