After announcing resignation from Port of St. Helens, Paulette Lichatowich withdraws from county election

After announcing her immediate resignation from the Port of St. Helens last Friday, July 6, Paulette Lichatowich said Tuesday she is also withdrawing from the race for Columbia County commissioner.

Lichatowich was one of two final candidates in the county commissioner race, challenging incumbent Henry Heimuller.

Lichatowich submitted a resignation letter indicating her departure from the Port of St. Helens Friday morning to the port's executive director, Doug Hayes, effective immediately. Lichatowich

Lichatowich issued a statement Tuesday, explaining her resignation from the port and confirming her intent to pull out of the General Election. She was slated to face off with Heimuller in November in a run-off election for the county commissioners seat after neither candidate secured a majority of the vote during the May Primaries.

Lichatowich said her decision to withdraw completely from county politics largely stemmed from recent ethics complaints filed against her by Brady Preheim with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

Preheim alleged she abused the Port of St. Helens compensation policy by requesting stipend payments for a lengthy review of a lease contract with ethanol transport company Global Partners, LP in 2017. The complaints also suggested Lichatowich shouldn't have requested payment for attending a community fundraiser.

The complaints were reviewed and dismissed by the commission on June 29.

"It has been an honor to serve the people of Columbia County throughout my tenure on the Port of St. Helens where I worked to increase transparency, represent 21st century ideas and values and listen to constituents throughout the county," she stated. "The state ethics board recently dismissed claims brought against me. However, the process of defending these false claims in the same responsible manner that I've represented my constituents has placed too great of a strain on my family."

The Spotlight previously reported in error that Lichatowich attended OGEC hearings with an attorney. She clarified that she attended with her husband, not an attorney, though she previously said she had to hire an attorney to address the ethics complaints, at her own expense.

"The complaint was a personal attack on me by a man who has been attacking me for more than a year and is so focused on hurting me, really hurting me that it felt like he wanted to bureaucratically attack and destroy my reputation," Lichatowich stated. "And, in reference to the ethics complaints he filed against me he says in an email sent to 72 people that there may be more ethics complaints by the time he is done."

Lichatowich called the complaints "willful ignorance of port policies." Port policy allows port commissioners to be paid for their personal time spent working on port business.

In a letter sent to the port director and board president Mike Avent, Lichatowich said she appreciated serving on the board.

"It has been a rewarding experience for me to work with you for the benefit of the [Port] District," Lichatowich stated. "I hope you are successful in finding a candidate to fill the position I have held for three years."

Hayes confirmed the port's board of commissioners is expected to appoint someone to fulfill the remainder of Lichatowich's term, which ends in 2019.

"I think all the port commissioners agree it would have to be a very open process," Hayes said of the impending recruitment and appointment process.

Lichatowich was first elected to her position on the port board in May 2015. She also served on the Columbia County Planning Commission for 13 years before resigning in June.

Records show Lichatowich collected nearly $18,500 in campaign contributions leading up to the Primary Election earlier this year.

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