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County Hires Lawyer to defend Clerk in Morgan Lawsuit

Roseburg, Or-Douglas County Clerk, Patricia Hitt has retained Roseburg Attorney Charles Lee, to defend her decision not to accept Susan Morgan’s filing for candidacy in the May 2016 Primary election. Morgan attempted to turn in papers to the Clerk’s office on Monday September 21, while Hitt was out on medical leave recovering from surgery, despite Hitt’s earlier communication with Morgan advising her that she could not file for a third term, under current county code. Hitt told the Beacon she had left her staff with explicit instruction not to accept Morgan’s filing. After being rejected at the Clerk’s office Morgan filed a lawsuit that same day against the County Clerk. According to Hitt, County Counsel Paul Meyer recommended Charles Lee to defend her. Lee, a member of the Roseburg School Board, and former candidate for Circuit Court Judge, has already made filings in the case, which is on a fast track schedule devised by Morgan’s attorney, Sharon Rudnick of Harrang Long Gary Rudnick P.C. of Eugene, Oregon. Under the original proposed schedule the court hearing would have taken place before Judge Randolph Garrison by October 30, 2015. That schedule may now be in question after Lee’s filing Monday, September 28, which was a Motion to Disqualify Judge Garrison. In a declaration supporting the motion Hitt stated; “I do not believe that I can have a fair trial or hearing in this matter before the Honorable Randolph Garrison.”  The motion was granted and an order disqualifying Garrison from hearing the case was signed by Judge William Marshall and entered in the court. It is unknown at this writing which judge will hear the case.  According to Hitt, the commissioners appropriated $10,000 so far to the Clerk’s budget for her legal expenses. It is not known at this time, and will depend on the initial ruling of the court, and whether the decision goes on to the appellate court, what the final legal costs to defend against Morgan’s suit will total. In the meantime the Chief Petitioner for the original Term Limits measure, John Parker, has retained the legal services of Portland Attorney, James Buchal, who has filed an intervenor motion for Parker. Parker has started a legal defense fund to assist with the costs associated with defending the people’s initiative. Parker said “I got this thing rolling, and with the help of a lot of volunteers got it on the ballot, but it’s going to be up to the 69 plus percent who voted for it if they want to keep it.”


Morgan Sues County Clerk –Defies Term Limit Law

Roseburg, Or- Term limited Douglas County Commissioner Susan Morgan was in full campaign mode this past weekend according to several who were in attendance at the Roseburg Rod and Gun Club’s Gun and Knife Show at the County Fairgrounds. Morgan had her campaign brochures on display as she greeted voters in the Republican Party booth, despite the fact that she was not legally filed as a candidate at the time.  Monday September 21, Morgan attempted to file documents with the County Clerk’s office, seeking a third term as commissioner, despite being informed previously by County Clerk Patti Hitt that she was ineligible. Hitt who was absent on medical leave, told the Beacon she had left strict instructions with her staff, not to accept the filing from Morgan. Last spring Hitt retained outside legal counsel, seeking an opinion on the measure and determined that in lieu of any court ruling to the contrary she was duty bound to uphold the voter approved county ordnance. The cost to the county for that opinion was $5,000. Within hours of Morgan’s filing being refused by the Clerk’s office, she filed a lawsuit against Patti Hitt, in her official capacity as the elected Douglas County Clerk. Joining Morgan in her lawsuit against the county are many of Morgan’s former campaign staff and donors including; Lynn Herbert (former campaign manager, Morgan donor), Bill Markham (Former State Representative, Morgan donor), Norm Smith (former director of the Ford Family Foundation), Andy Owens Sr., Elin Miller (UCC Board), Georgia Stiles (former Real Estate Broker and Morgan donor), Keith Tymchuck (former Reedsport Mayor), Dotty Randall Stapleton (Owner TMS Call Center and Morgan donor), Chuck Ireland (Ireland Trucking, Morgan donor).  The lawsuit seeks to overturn the voter approved term limit measure passed in November of 2014. The plaintiffs allege in their filing that the measure, although vetted by Douglas County Counsel Paul Meyer as constitutional before authorizing signature gathering, is in fact unconstitutional.  John Parker, Chief petitioner for the measure told the Beacon that Meyer approved the measure before passing it on to the DA’s office for ballot title and wording. He said there was a statutory time period for anyone, including Commissioner Morgan to challenge the measure, but no challenges were made.  According to filings with the Oregon Secretary of State’s ORESTAR filings Morgan has spent $5,000 so far with the law firm of Harrang, Long, Gary Rudnick, PC, of Eugene, Oregon,  who filed the suit on behalf of Morgan and her associates. County Commissioner Chris Boice told the Beacon the county will have to defend County Clerk Patti Hitt and the county ordinance which was passed by nearly 70%. He said “that’s our obligation.” Commissioner Freeman did not return our call seeking a comment.  Susan Morgan also declined a request for comment. 


Prozanski may have Dodged a Ballot

Oregon Senator Floyd Prozanski, author and chief architect of the most aggressive and far reaching gun control law in recent Oregon history may have narrowly avoided being on a special ballot this fall, facing a recall vote which could have resulted in his removal from office.  Even though the Oregon Secretary of State’s office ruled that the petitions turned in yielded approximately 200 fewer signatures than the required 8,415 needed to place the recall on the ballot, Chief Petitioner Pamela Duffy told the Beacon “It’s not done as far as we’re concerned.” Senate Bill 941, the controversial gun control law which requires background checks for all private gun sales or even transfer of possession, was the driving force behind the recall effort. The Oregon Citizens to Recall Senator Floyd Prozanski Committee turned in 10,504 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office on Friday September 4, 2015, more than 2,000 over the required number needed. Acting Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins was appointed by her predecessor Kate Brown, after Brown was tapped to take over as Oregon Governor following Kitzhaber’s resignation. Atkins is a former Chief of Staff for the Oregon House Democrat Caucus, and former staffer for Senator Jeff Merkley.  Atkins refused to certify the signatures turned in by the recall committee after a determination was made, not by counting and certifying the actual signatures, but by a statistical sampling. There were two samplings taken, one yielding a count of 8,208, the other 8,062. Both samples if proved accurate are shy of the 8,415 needed to place the Prozanski recall on the ballot. There were hundreds of additional signatures, collected in gun stores, that never got turned in, due to challenges made by the opponents of the recall. Duffy says they are going to pursue every angle to see to it that the certification process was accurate and honest. In a prepared statement she said; “The fact that we got so close sends a strong message to arrogant, out of touch politicians like Prozanski that the people are energized enough to act, especially considering 17% of petition signers were Democrats and another 15% were non affiliated voters.We are considering all of our options to appeal the official results or the possibility of a recount”.  Those opposing the recall and supporting Prozanski’s legislation are backed by former New York mayor and billionaire, Michael Bloomberg. From an article on Oregon Firearms Federation’s website: “Needless to say, Prozanski and the Bloomberg cabal have claimed that this is a “victory” for gun control. However, nowhere do they mention the over 10,000 people who sought to have Prozanski removed from office, nor do they mention that the commissioners in both counties that Prozanski’s Senate District spans have passed resolutions against enforcing Prozanski’s anti right’s bill.” Meanwhile Prozanksi is enjoying the moment saying he was “grateful” for the “continued support.”


Two Candidates file for County Commissioner

Roseburg, OR-Thursday September 10, 2015 was the first day candidates could officially file their candidacy for the May 2016 Primary Election. First term Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice turned in his papers at the Douglas County Clerk’s office filing to run for re-election to Position 3, the seat formerly held by Doug Robertson until his resignation last July. Boice was elected to his position in the November 2014 general election and his current term will end December 31, 2016. Local businessman and civic leader Gary Leif also filed his papers for County Commissioner for Position 1, the position being vacated at the end of 2016 by Susan Morgan who has been term limited out. This is Leif’s second run for commissioner. He ran for the same seat vacated by Robertson which Boice now holds. However this time he’s not running against Boice, he will seek to join him as a colleague on the three member Board of Commissioners. Neither Boice nor Leif have an opponent at this early stage of the campaign, and the filing deadline of March 8, 2016 is several months away. Boice described his first eight months in office as a “quick learning curve” which he said was full of fairly controversial issues, like charging at the landfill, and parking at county parks, which were supported unanimously by all three current commissioners. Boice said however, that if it weren’t for the loss of timber revenues to the county they wouldn’t need those new user fees. He also said at some point when timber payments are restored he’d like to see those fees repealed. Leif said his involvement in civic groups and on various economic development boards has prepared him for the challenges of the commissioner’s office. “My leadership and can-do attitude and the ability to work with others will be essential as we deal with the county’s financial problems and many departments run by the county.” Leif is optimistic about his chance of winning this time based on his support by more than 13,000 voters in the last election.


Cloud of uncertainty hangs over family

After five years, two wins at Oregon Court of Appeals, mother still in court over custody of her daughter

David Jaques, The Roseburg Beacon

The saga of Ajay Pichette, the single mother who battled the state of Oregon for more than four years for the return of her daughter Nakota (Kota), winning twice in the Oregon court of appeals, continues as she was taken back to court earlier this month defending against a claim for custody and visitation by the former state appointed foster parents, Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputies, Mike and Kim Root. 

Liam, Lilly, and Nakota (Kota)The nightmare, as Ajay defines it, all began back in November of 2007, when five armed officers entered her mother’s home in Curtin, where she was staying, and stripped her seven week old baby, Nakota Ruth Eckel from her arms. The 18-year-old single mother, Ajay Eckel (now Pichette) described the scene that night as “chaotic and terrifying”. 

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