A decision recently by the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners to approve $2 million in a Pendleton project left a few questions in its wake that elected leaders need to answer sooner rather than later.

The issue evolved out of a Nov. 10 commission meeting when commissioners voted to furnish Pendleton with a $2 million revolving loan fund. The fund will hopefully help pave the way for the construction of a connector road between Highway 11 and Highway 30 on the city’s south hill to open land for housing.

Commission Chair George Murdock and Commissioner John Shafer voted to approve the deal, while Commissioner Dan Dorran voted no because he had not seen the actual agreement.

Dorran’s views strike home because, apparently, hardly anyone else has seen the pact either. Murdock and Shafer voted on the proposal without — it appears — an actual text of the agreement to refer to. Neither has the public — the voters — gained the ability to see the actual agreement.

Murdock said the agreement wasn’t available because county counsel Doug Olsen was out of the office and couldn’t provide it. Murdock did say that while the elected board voted to approve the move, the agreement — wherever it is — isn’t set in stone because it has not been signed.

During the commission meeting, Dorran requested the issue be tabled until he could see the agreement. That didn’t happen. It should have.

Briefly, the issue appears to be a minor bureaucratic move, but the way it was handled raises questions. How can you vote on an agreement that you have not even seen yet? The answer is you shouldn’t, but two commissioners did, raising the specter that this relatively minor move is more than it seems.

In all fairness, there is most likely nothing wrong with how the commissioners faced this issue. Yet their actions — essentially shoving through an agreement without an actual document to refer to or to allow the public to see — is heavy-handed and a gross misjudgment.

Elected leaders should know better. Blaming the absence of the agreement on the fact the county counsel is unavailable doesn’t wash, either. If the county counsel was unavailable, and therefore could not provide the agreement, the commissioners should have done what Dorran asked — table the issue.

In short, the way it was handled looks bad to voters and raises questions that are unnecessary and a distraction.

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