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Wheeler County commissioner faces recall election

Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on August 1, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on August 1, 2018 11:05PM


A rock crusher, garbage truck, and the road department are among the things spurring an Aug. 28 recall election of Wheeler County Commissioner Robert Ordway.

Fossil resident Ava Terri Hunt filed a petition to recall Ordway with the Wheeler County Clerk’s Office on July 10. In her statement justifying the recall, Hunt accused Ordway of professional mismanagement.

Her complaints included selling a rock crusher for less than its value, buying a garbage truck with no title, not participating in various committees, and abstaining from voting on “critical matters” before the Wheeler County Court, including a $2 million grant for a fiber optic project.

Hunt had until Oct. 8 to collect 123 signatures from Wheeler County voters, but she returned to the clerk’s office two weeks later with 151 valid signatures.

With the recall initiated, Ordway had the option of resigning his seat. Instead, he decided to keep his position and sent a letter of justification.

“Vague, misleading assertions on the petition are inconsistent with facts and demonstrate a disregard for the truth,” he wrote in a letter received by the clerk’s office on Monday.

Ordway argued that the court collectively decided on how to sell the rock crusher, the garbage truck’s title is held by the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office, his duties as road department head took priority over committee meetings in Prineville or The Dalles, and his concerns about the fiber optic project weren’t addressed to his satisfaction.

“I have met challenges head-on, and worked to put the tax payers first,” he wrote at the end.

Wheeler County voters will now decide whether to let Ordway finish his term through 2020 or remove him from office during a special Aug. 28 recall election. County Clerk Alicia Hankins said she didn’t know how much the election would cost, but a previous recall election cost $2,500. While the county will have to cover the election’s costs, Hankins said she usually budgets for an extra election every year just in case.

If Ordway is recalled, Hankins said the court would have 30 days from the time the election is certified to chose his replacement. Because it’s a partisan position, the Wheeler County Republican precinct committee will submit three to five Republican candidates for the court to consider for appointment, although the court can consider additional people if the committee cannot deliver at least three names.

The upcoming recall election continues a trend of political upheaval in Oregon’s least populated county.

Wheeler County voters recalled former County Judge Patrick Perry in 2016 following accusations that included being a part of a romantic relationship with an employee he supervised.

Under Wheeler County’s form of government, the county judge oversees juvenile and probate court while chairing the three-person board of commissioners.

More recently, Wheeler County Sheriff Chris Humphreys announced in June that he intended to resign and was giving the court four to six months to find a replacement.

Along with Humphreys, the office’s three full-time deputies and one part-time employee will also exit the law enforcement agency.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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