YEAR IN REVIEW - Former port commissioner pulls out of county political arena, leaving county commissioner candidate unopposed

YEAR IN REVIEW — SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Paulette Lichatowich, shown here at a candidate forum, resigned from the Port of Columbia Countys board of commissioners and shortly therafter, pulled out of the race for county commissioner in 2018, after she was the subject of ethics complaints filed with the state that were later dismissed by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.When Paulette Lichatowich announced she was resigning her position as a commissioner for the Port of Columbia County, it wasn't long afterward that she withdrew from politics entirely.

In June, Scappoose business owner and St. Helens resident Brady Preheim filed ethics complaints against Lichatowich with Oregon's Government Ethics Commission. Preheim alleged Lichatowich inappropriately billed the port for several hours spent reviewing a contract and also requested payment for attending community events that went beyond the scope of her responsibilities as a port commissioner.

At the time, Lichatowich was also in the running as one of two candidates for a seat on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners. The candidate advanced her campaign to a run-off after a primary election in May, challenging incumbent Commissioner Henry Heimuller. The complaints against Lichatowich were eventually dismissed, but the process wore on her, and by the time the dismissal was announced, Lichatowich had already resigned from the port board and withdrew her name from the November election ballot.

Her decision to pull out of the county commissioner race left Heimuller unchallenged on the ballot. On Nov. 6, Heimuller secured a third term.

"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," Lichatowich stated in a press release. "How many people will be held accountable for the false personal attacks on me and my family?"

Lichatowich asserted the complaints against her were an attempt to sway the election and "harm" her.

"Therefore, because the people involved have trivialized my years of service on the Port Commission and the 2018 election process and the continuing assault of misinformation, I will not run again for elected office in Columbia County," she noted.

In August, after receiving applications and holding interviews, the port's board of commissioners appointed Patrick Trapp, the agency's former executive director, to serve the remainder of Lichatowich's term.

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