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Clackamas County faces $2.75 million wrongful death suit

Oregon OSHA hits county with a $2,100 citation in connection with weighmaster homicide


Clackamas County is facing a $2.75 million lawsuit and a $2,100 fine in the wake of the on-duty homicide of Assistant Weighmaster Grady Waxenfelter.

Waxenfelter’s widow, Tedra, declined to be interviewed, but her attorney Robert Muth, of Portland-based Kilmer, Voorhees & Laurick, said: “It’s a time for the family to try to move forward.”

Currently, the law firm estimates the economic loss of Waxenfelter to be $2 million with an additional $750,000 for pain and suffering. Muth did not have a date for when they plan to file the suit in Clackamas County Circuit Court but gave a notice to the county of their intent to do so Monday, Aug. 5.

Oregon OSHA also completed its six-month investigation in the last week and issued a citation Thursday, Aug. 8 for $2,100. Spokesperson Melanie Mesaros said the investigators determined that though there was a failure to properly instruct and train the employees, that the likelihood of a death resulting from that negligence was low.

“The fact that an event occurred doesn’t mean it was likely to occur,” Mesaros said.

The workplace code enforcement agency uses a matrix for determining fines, with a maximum of $7,000 for a high-risk situation or up to $70,000 for willful violations of law.

“It was not a willful violation,” Mesaros said of this case.

Waxenfelter was shot in the head Feb. 6 around 10:40 a.m. during a routine patrol stop at the corner of Highway 224 and Southeast Amissiger Road near Damascus. The suspect, Dirck Morgan White, remains at large.

The OSHA report echoes concerns of a previously released independent report that the county had virtually no policies, procedures or training in place for its weighmasters.

County Administrator Don Krupp declined to respond to the tort claim notice but said the weighmaster program is in for major changes, including a permanent suspension of the patrol function.

“I think the actions taken today to suspend the field operations essentially satisfy the requirements of the OSHA report,” Krupp said Wednesday, Aug. 13. “It’s not at all likely that we would restart what would be the field patrol operations, particularly those duties involved with traffic stops."

Read more: Weighmaster death stirs issues.