Last week, Mark Seligman handed me a “Judgment of Validation” from 2005, validating the Commissioners’ action is setting a new fee for the Public Land Corner Preservation Fund. It lists three Commissioners as petitioners. I quote from the judgment:
“The petitioners appeared by and through their attorney, Steven E. Rich, Josephine County Legal Counsel. There was no appearance in opposition to the petition. An order of default was entered on September 1, 2005 against Josephine County, a political subdivision, and all electors, freeholders, taxpayers, and other interested persons.”
There is no defendant named in the heading, only petitioners. Where the defendant would be named, there is the topic of the petition, not even framed as a question. The defendant is named only in the judgment; it is us, the people of the County. It does not even mention the reason the question is raised, which is that our Charter says that new fees must be put to a vote of the people. And since no one appeared on behalf of the people of the County, the Commissioners won by default.
Why did no one appear on our behalf? Because the lawyer we elected to represent us before the Board, to counsel them on our rights under the law, was working for the opposing side, the Commissioners. Steven E. Rich is not the Commissioners’ attorney; he is elected by the people to counsel the Commissioners as to our rights under the law.
When then-Mayor Len Holzinger casually said that he would consult with the City Attorney a few years ago, then-City Manager David Frasher pointed out that the City Attorney was his attorney, not the Council’s. This was true; he hired him, and he could fire him.
We hired and can theoretically fire Steve Rich, and this case gives us good reason to fire him, and even disbar him. Rather than recognizing his conflict of interest in working for the Board in a dispute with the people who elected him, he worked for the Board and left the people without representation, to lose by default. He either should have recused himself entirely, or he should have defended the Charter, and told the Commissioners to hire their own attorney.
This is the judgment that Steve Rich says justifies the Commissioners in setting new fees without a vote of the people. It stinks to high heaven of fraud and conflict of interest. It makes me want to read every other judgment against our Charter amendments. This Board should ignore it and put any new fees instituted since 2004 to a vote of the people.
Below is the judgment that Steve Rich wrote for the judge’s signature. The legal format cannot be reproduced on this site, but it is condensed vertically in its original format on the back of the street leaflet to fit on one page. It has the semblance of a legal form, but only that. Where there would normally be a defendant, there is a statement of the purpose of the petition, which should be in the same section as “Judgment of Validation,” disguising the lack of an individual defendant to be served.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE STATE OF OREGON FOR JOSEPHINE COUNTY
Case No. 05-CV-0469
JUDGMENT OF VALIDATION
In the matter of the Petition of, Jim Riddle, Dwight F. Ellis, and Jim Raffenburg, as the Board of County Commissioners of Josephine County, a political subdivision of the State of Oregon,
For a Judicial Examination and Judgment of the Court as to the Validity of the Order of the Board of County Commissioners Establishing Fees to be collected for the Public Land Corner Preservation Fund
This Petition for judicial examination under ORS 33.710(2)came before the above-mentioned court for prima facie hearing on the 21st day of September 2005. The petitioners appeared by and through their attorney, Steven E. Rich, Josephine County Legal Counsel. There was no appearance in opposition to the petition. An order of default was entered on September 1, 2005, against Josephine County, a political subdivision, and all electors, freeholders, taxpayers, and other interested persons. The court being fully informed and having reviewed the pleadings in this matter, now, therefore,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND DECREED that judgment be entered against Josephine County, a political subdivision, and all electors, freeholders, taxpayers, and other interested persons that
(1)the actions of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners in establishing the Public Land Corner Preservation Fund fees are proper and valid and that the Board of County Commissioners acted within its authority in doing so;
(2) no error, irregularity, or omission in the proceedings establishing the fees to be collected for the Public Land Corner Preservation fund affects substantive rights of parties to this proceeding; and
(3) the Board of County Commissioners have judgment validating the actions of the Board in creating the process to collect fees under ORS 203.148.
DATED this 21 day of September, 2005.
Allen H. Coon, Circuit Court Judge
Submitted by:Steven E. Rich, OSB #80099 / Josephine County Legal Counsel