Lines: Preheim lawsuit designed to impact election
The front page article in the May 1 edition of the Columbia County Spotlight concerning a lawsuit brought by Brady Preheim leads, "With just weeks before the Columbia County Jail operations levy comes before voters, a lawsuit has drawn the use of jail finances into question."
I believe a more appropriate lead would be — "Once again Brady Preheim files a lawsuit/ethics complaint prior to an upcoming election." Of course the lawsuit won't be heard until after the election on May 19th. In the past, Mr. Preheim's lawsuits/ethics complaints have been dismissed by a court or ethics commission. It seems obvious to me that Mr. Preheim's intent is not to win a court battle but once again to get front page coverage for his stated objective: "My goal in filing the lawsuit, number one, is to try to convince people that the jail, with an over $8 million budget, is not worth it." (Actual 2019 jail operating expenses were $6.8 million, of which $2.2 million was paid by the federal government for housing federal prisoners, which can be confirmed on the county website).
The reporter of this article mentions the formation of the Jail Operating Citizens Advisory Committee (JOCAC) whose members are expected to advise the sheriff and commissioners on the appropriate use of jail levy funds. It is interesting that the reporter of this article attended, by phone, the March 17 JOCAC meeting where the committee unanimously approved a summary report that stated: "In examining county quarterly and year-end financial reports, the committee has verified that with this correction, all funds raised by the levy, and all other funds raised for jail operations, have either been spent on jail operations or are in an account reserved for jail operations." This report is available on the county website (columbiacountyor.gov). Although JOCAC has had to work with the County Financial Director to develop reports to track some expenditures, contrary to the reporter's statement, JOCAC has never "been unable to obtain records from the county that would demonstrate the use of funds." I would think an official report by the committee responsible for monitoring the use of levy funds would be at least as important as an article about Mr. Preheim filing another lawsuit.
Garrett Lines, St. Helens
*Editor's Note: From The Spotlight's initial story — "Lawsuit alleges improper use of jail levy funds" on May 1, "(Sheriff Brian) Pixley declined to comment on the lawsuit. Sarah Hanson, legal counsel for Columbia County, did not return a request for comment."
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