SALEM — The future of the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) waits on a review by the Department of Administrative Services. The results of that investigation are expected Friday.
In the wake of the departure of Executive Director Vicki S. McConnell, suspicions of fiscal mismanagement arose. McConnell left for a position in Colorado as executive director of the Geological Society of America.
“We kept having to cut staff,” said Larry Givens, chairman of DOGAMI’s governing board, of Milton-Freewater. “When Vicki left, Acting Executive Director Ian Madin discovered some issues we couldn’t overcome. I told Ian we needed a complete audit.”
Allison Ryan, information specialist at DOGAMI, described the problem.
“Operators of smaller mining sites provide cash bonds to ensure reclamation of land,” she said. “Those funds have all been held in the main pot for our Mineral Land Regulation & Reclamation program, instead of going into a separate pot. Steps are being taken to correct this as part of the DAS review that’s in progress.”
A legislator close to the DOGAMI issue suggests that McConnell spent funds that were in reserve — paid by minerals companies as a bond against performance on their permits.
Compounding the agency’s difficulties was receiving only one year’s funding in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s final biennial budget.
“We had DOGAMI staff upset and concerned, and some staff has resigned because they want more assurance of their paycheck,” said Givens, who is also a Umatilla County commissioner.
Rich Angstrom is president of the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association and represents Oregon mining interests.
“It is disappointing that the agency didn’t communicate with the legislature or the industry about dipping into either of those accounts to fund an unrelated program.” Angstrom also represents mining interests within Oregon.
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