Breidenthal missed the most board meetings
Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal has missed the most meetings and has had the most expenses from January 2015 to April 2016, based on a Mail Tribune analysis of travel expenses for all three commissioners obtained from Jackson County.
Breidenthal missed 39 of the 238 official meetings, or 16 percent, and had $30,482 in expenses, of which $12,578 was reimbursed to the county by other organizations such as the Association of Oregon Counties. Breidenthal's travel amounted to 73 percent of the $41,808 in expenses for all three commissioners from January 2015 through April 6, 2016.
Commissioner Rick Dyer missed nine of the meetings, or 4 percent, and had $6,629 in expenses, while Commissioner Colleen Roberts missed five meetings, or 2 percent, and had $4,696 in expenses. Dyer's expenses accounted for about 16 percent of the board's total, and Roberts' accounted for just over 11 percent. Both Dyer and Roberts had less than $350 in reimbursements from other organizations.
Commissioners had nine meetings canceled for lack of a quorum in 2015 and six canceled in 2016 through April 14.
The issue of travel expenses and meeting attendance came up last year when Jackson County filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission related to a campaign account Breidenthal had with the Association of Oregon Counties. The issue also has come up among Breidenthal's opponents for the May 17 Republican primary, Bob Strosser and Gordon Challstrom.
Breidenthal, who became commissioner in 2013, said he’s been in office the longest, so he’s developed more relationships with outside boards and organizations that require him to travel to more conferences and meetings.
“During that time period, the burden of maintaining Jackson County positions on all the boards was left to my responsibility,” Breidenthal said.
Once the other two commissioners have spent more time in office, they will miss more meetings and incur more expenses, while he will miss fewer meetings and have fewer expenses, he said.
Breidenthal said that all the conferences and meetings he attends outside the area have been approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, including his leadership position with the Western Interstate Region, for which the campaign account was established with the AOC.
Breidenthal remains under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice and the Ethics Commission for activities related to the account, for which he raised $12,500. A preliminary review by the Ethics Commission found Breidenthal may have violated Oregon law concerning the receipt of gifts valued at more than $50 from parties with interests before the Board of Commissioners, the use of an official position for financial gain and possible improper reporting of payments to cover trip expenses.
Breidenthal said he didn't take a vacation during his first two years in office. He said both Dyer and Roberts have either taken a vacation or planned to take a vacation since they took office in 2015.
Dyer said he’s not particularly proud of his own attendance record but added he had a couple of medical procedures that required him to take time off.
“Nine meetings missed — I would prefer that number were lower,” he said.
Dyer disputed Breidenthal’s assertion that Dyer would miss more meetings the longer he is in office. “I will not say that is 100 percent accurate,” he said.
Dyer said he thought Breidenthal's out-of-town expenses were on the high side, though Dyer agreed that some traveling is necessary.
“That’s what he (Breidenthal) has set as his priority,” Dyer said. “My priority is on local issues and getting local work done.”
Reviewing the commissioners' attendance records and expense reports is a matter of importance to the citizens of Jackson County, Dyer said.
Roberts said she also considers attendance and expenses an important issue for the county.
“It’s been my goal to keep costs as low as possible,” she said. “Travel is somewhat a matter of priorities.”
Roberts said she has gone to meetings out of town, but she tries to go on a Monday or toward the end of the week when no commissioner meetings are scheduled.
“I’m on the O&C board,” she said. “I try to go up that morning and come back that night.”
Roberts said it is true that she plans to take a week off at the end of May but will be available by phone. She said she doesn’t think her absence will create any quorum issues for the commissioners.
Roberts said the issue of travel is one commissioners should be mindful of, and that there are always organizations or agencies asking commissioners to travel to a conference.
She said she tries to make sure that any traveling brings something of value back to the county.
“We have addressed some of the travel issues in our meetings,” Roberts said. “It is somewhat of a concern.”