Oregon officials investigating petition against Rainier councilwoman

2013-12-08T23:30:00Z 2014-02-12T22:07:26Z Oregon officials investigating petition against Rainier councilwoman Longview Daily News

RAINIER — The Oregon Secretary of State Office is investigating the recall petition against Rainier City Councilwoman Judith Taylor, who is accused of harassing members of the city’s senior center following a year-long feud involving the city’s oversight of the organization’s finances.

The recall petition, filed by Senior Center Board President Bill Dias, states Taylor threatened some senior center members and “displays conduct not becoming a public servant.” Taylor called the petition’s allegations “unsubstantiated” and “without merit” in a complaint letter to the secretary of state filed Nov. 26.

The Secretary of State Office spokesman Tony Green confirmed in an email that the office is investigating Taylor’s complaint. The state must determine if the petition violated Oregon election laws by making false statements of harassment, Green said.

If a violation is found, Dias could be prosecuted under a Class C felony, according to the Oregon Department of Justice.

Taylor, the city’s liaison to the center, said she was initially accused of harassment when she questioned the senior center’s financial stability after the previous board president, Gard Wold, could not provide an operating budget. The organization has since improved its financial reporting to the city, Mayor Jerry Cole said.

“It just depends on what you think is harassment. If you think asking questions and sitting in meetings being composed is harassment, that is false,” Taylor said Thursday. “I didn’t harass anybody.”

Dias, who was appointed to the board in July, acknowledged Wold’s shortcomings running the nonprofit’s finances, but said Wold did not misspend funds.

“He was doing the best he could. He did not understand the necessity of keeping records,” Dias said.

Since last December, the senior center board and Taylor have disagreed on the city’s oversight for the senior center, which is a private nonprofit organization.

“We are doing fine running (the organization), we don’t need her to run it,” Dias said.

The Rainier Senior Center leases its building at 48 W. Seventh St. rent-free from the city, which acquired the land through a $600,000 community development block grant. The city also pays for the building’s water and sewer.

Under the lease agreement, the nonprofit must provide the city a copy of its operating budget every six months and an annual audit. The senior center also must maintain the building’s interior and inform the city of any repairs or alterations.

Dias admitted last week that he has not reviewed the lease agreement. He was unaware of some of the organization’s obligations to the city.

Dias said the board is working on its finances and rebuilding its general fund, which has about $2,500. The senior center has 300 members and receives money through fundraisers, donations and the anti-poverty nonprofit Community Action Team, which pays for its Meals on Wheels program.

Taylor said she still doubted the senior center’s financial stability and its ability to keep the building running. However, Cole said the center’s current board is in compliance and has provided monthly statements and budgets to the city.

“The new executive directors and board are learning what they need to do,” he said. “They are doing a really good job currently.”

More arguments erupted as Taylor asked questions about the building’s maintenance, eventually leading her to unofficially step down as liaison. City Councilman Steve Massey is now the primary liaison and attends the senior center’s membership meetings.

Dias said Taylor overstepped her responsibilities as liaison.

“A liaison is a go-between. It’s not her job to tell us how to run (the senior center),” he said. “There’s so much misinformation that we cannot financially take care of ourselves, (but) we keep accumulating more (money) each month.”

Taylor said she fulfilled her duties as liaison and will continue working to bring attention to the senior center’s financial problems.

“This recall does bring attention to any concerning issues down there,” she said. “We all need to be aware, so we can find a solution and move forward.”

Lyxan Toledanes covers health and medicine and Rainier and Castle Rock city government for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2586 or ltoledanes@tdn.com.

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. See the Light
    Report Abuse
    See the Light - December 09, 2013 9:32 am
    Mr. Dias needs to step down. Come on....you don't make such accusations against someone when you haven't even reviewed your own lease agreement. Then they all should start over with the Senior Center complying with their agreement with the City of Rainier. Councilwoman Taylor was just doing her job.
  2. valerie2112
    Report Abuse
    valerie2112 - December 09, 2013 10:48 pm
    Dias is the one who needs to leave, not Taylor.
  3. fact 2
    Report Abuse
    fact 2 - December 10, 2013 7:50 am
    As an elected official representing the city of Rainier I would expect professionalism and ethical behavior. Judith Taylor as Rainier Senior Center liaison has not exhibited these behaviors in her dealings with Rainier Seniors. She has made unfounded accusations against former board members, has threatened employees with being fired, and treated senior members with disrespect and open hostility. Letters are being sent to the state elections board documenting these incidents. RECALL JUDITH TAYLOR
  4. notgonnatell
    Report Abuse
    notgonnatell - December 10, 2013 5:04 pm
    I am surprised that Dias (aka Ron Hahn) Chair & Liz Sandahl, Secretary of the Senior Center a 501 (c) 3 have started this recall the IRS is clear about non-profits being involved in political campaigns THEY CAN"T these people really don't have a clue. First the City then the State now the IRS...Thank you Judith to help protect our Seniors
  5. fact1
    Report Abuse
    fact1 - December 10, 2013 7:48 pm
    Get your facts right out there! The Rainier Senior Center didn't start the recall petition. Judith Taylor has spun the situation so our grandmas and grandpas are the bad people and she is a saint. More political spin! Go to the Senior Center and ask people who are there on a regular basis what really happened. Politicians who abuse there power should be recalled. Wake up this is not the only problem Taylor has caused in Rainier.
  6. notgonnatell
    Report Abuse
    notgonnatell - December 11, 2013 10:49 am
    Reading the petition from president Dias and an editorial from signed by Secretary Sandahl has involved the Senior Center Board in this recall campaign! That is a FACT
    that jeopardizes the Rainier Senior Center non-profit status. It appears a few on the Board are speaking for all 300 members. I hear if you don't agree with what's going on down their your not welcome. What a waste of time and energy that really isn't about taking care of grannie & gramps. Saint maybe...
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