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County reprimands planning director

Following an executive session Wednesday, the Union County Board of Commissioners voted to place a letter of reprimand in the personnel file of county Planning Director Hanley Jenkins – but refused to say why.

In accordance with Oregon public meeting laws, the board moved from the executive session to open session to vote on the reprimand of Jenkins, who has been at the center of a controversy since last September when he was accused of deleting public record e-mails

The three-member board – Steve McClure, Mark Davidson and Bill Rosholt – voted to accept the letter of reprimand, as written by Union County Counsel Brandon Eyre, but did not discuss the contents of the letter.

Eyre advised the board that the letter is sealed from the public on the grounds it is a disciplinary matter. Eyre said this morning that that is in accordance with county policy and state law dealing with public records.

“Generally it’s the policy that we don’t comment on disciplinary matters. That’s a policy supported by state law. The reason is to avoid backlash and negative public perception when discipline is implemented,” he said.

Last September Dennis Wilkinson, head of the citizens group Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley, claimed that Jenkins improperly deleted e-mails related to the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm. Those claims led to an Oregon Department of Justice investigation.

Wilkinson alleged that Jenkins deleted the e-mails after Wilkinson submitted a request for public records related to the wind farm. Wilkinson said that an “inside source” in the planning department saw Jenkins delete the e-mails.

Wilkinson, Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley attorney Charles Gillis and Stephen Donnell all urged the state Justice Department to investigate. The department began its probe last fall after consulting with Union County District Attorney Tim Thompson.

In March, Sean Riddell chief counsel for the department’s Criminal Justice Division, wrote Thompson saying there wasn’t enough evidence to support claims that Jenkins illegally deleted e-mails.

Riddell said the state investigation included review of material sent by Donnell and material received from Eyre. The information from Eyre included transcripts of interviews with county employees.

Riddell also said the justice department forensically examined Jenkins’ county computer and questioned Valerie Franklin, Horizon’s Antelope Ridge project manager. Jenkins allegedly deleted e-mails from Franklin.

When Wednesday’s meeting adjourned, McClure, the board’s chair, refused to comment on the reprimand letter.

Jenkins this morning referred The Observer to his attorney, Damien Yervasi of Baker City.

Yervasi kept his comments brief.

“All I can say is Hanley disagrees with the letter, but understands the difficult position the county is in,” he said.