Hare’s I.T. experience questioned

Siege Schatza
IVN copy editor

Both administrative actions that were set to be tackled during the Feb. 21 Board of Josephine County Commissioners weekly business session at Anne G. Basker Auditorium were tabled, but several hot topics were discussed during requests and comments from citizens.
The first of the tabled matters was a contract with former Commissioner Simon Hare to facilitate regional broadband project coordination.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung, the only current commissioner whose tenure on the board overlapped with Hare’s, criticized Hare for not meeting with him to advocate for his qualifications for being a broadband coordinator, though DeYoung noted “I have nothing against the man.”
“I received this contract yesterday,” DeYoung remarked. “Now, somewhere along the line this contract was approved, chapter and verse, and the amount and everything was approved and sent off to legal. Legal drew it up and I got it yesterday. I asked what qualifications or if there was any other thing that came up and the answer was no, that Simon Hare was the only name on the list type of thing.”
DeYoung went on to recap some of the legislative accomplishments he shared with Hare from the start of DeYoung’s term in 2017 to the end of Hare’s term in 2019.
“Simon and I did a lot of really good work for Josephine County when he and I served together,” the commissioner noted. “Exit 61 would not be Exit 61 if Simon and I hadn’t gone to the Area Commission on Transportation and lobbied to get that intersection made safe so the school buses weren’t out onto the highway in foggy weather. Simon and I both served on the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation and then we also served on the Oregon Board of Directors. I’m still on the Oregon Board of Directors for O&C Counties from which timber receipts come from because we’re an O&C County. So Simon and I have done a lot of really good work together for Josephine County. This piece is not one of them.”

DeYoung explained that he wanted the contract tabled so that Commissioner Herman Baertschiger, who was not in attendance, could be part of the discussion.

“I would like Herman to be in the room when we take that vote so it is all three commissioners making that vote,” said DeYoung. “I want to just put this off until next week if I can.”

DeYoung’s final point before making a motion to table the contract was that Hare had not visited his office since November and he wants to meet with him prior to the vote: “I have not talked to Simon Hare. I’ve not been able to ask him about his qualifications. I haven’t been able to ask Simon Hare if he wants this job, what his anticipation is for the job and what his desire is for the outcome. So I really would like to have a conversation with Simon within the next week.”

The second tabled matter, which was tabled prior to the start of the session, was an intergovernmental agreement with Rogue Valley Council of Governments for grant writing services.

During public comments, Kathy Toronto raised concerns about Hare’s potential contract: “Having been a technology manager before retirement, it is concerning that (Hare) has no experience in this work and that he attacked the proposed county charter in a Chamber of Commerce meeting. Yes, the cover story is that he was doing so as a private citizen, while all in attendance presumed he was a county employee.”

Toronto also read a recent letter to the editor condemning the commissioners: “Need a job? Two high-salaried chief executive positions are open right here in Josephine County. Starting pay of $92,000 per year plus a generous retirement plan paid by your employer. Paid health insurance and expenses. First four years almost guaranteed. No training, no education required.

“You can avail yourselves to some on the job training by making a steady stream of stupid, self-serving decisions that are costly to your taxpaying employers. In order to win this cushy job you merely need lots of ‘vote for me’ signs and get the vetted endorsement of a radical conspiracy-ridden political party. Plus, when asked, express your delusional belief that the last presidential election was stolen. You’ll find no facts to support it, but way too much company. The job title is county commissioner if elected. Remember the motto: Serve yourself first.”

The next speaker, Colleen Martin, pushed back on the notion that Hare has been attacking the proposed county charter amendment. As a member of the Committee for Government Affairs for the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce, Martin said she invited Hare to present the arguments against revising the county charter. Martin added that she feels “misinformation” has been spreading about the county charter and “we all need to understand the charter better.”

Board Chair John West shared his hopes for upcoming broadband programs while responding to citizen comments, saying the most remote residents of the county would be served first: “The people in the country, the underserved, the people that don’t have it, they get served first. The people inside the city, they’re supposedly already supposed to have the best of the best and so they’re the last. And if there’s any money left when we get in close to the city, some of those folks will get it. But if not it starts at the farthest end of the county and it works its way in and there’s going to be a lot of money coming forward. We’re hoping we get as much as possible.”

As for the contract with Hare, West assured critics that they will have an opportunity to weigh in before the vote on its approval: “This will come before the board; this will come before the public. Everyone will get to weigh in on it with their three minutes. You will hear the total ins and outs of it. We got some briefing on it yesterday, but this will be for you to be able to read and see and it will be discussed here. So it’s not being done behind closed doors or anything like that. We will take it up and everyone will get to weigh in on it.”