County adopts code changes

A trio of code changes were adopted by the Board of Josephine County Commissioners Wednesday, March 20 during their weekly business session, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
Initial public hearings and first readings for all three ordinances were held two weeks prior, with unanimous support from the commissioners and no citizens speaking out in opposition.
Respectively, changes were made to Josephine County Code Chapter 2.05: Meetings of the Board of Commissioners; Chapter 2.10: Finance Department; and Chapter 2.20: Unified Board of Appeals.
As Assistant Legal Counsel Leah Harper noted, “The changes are to reflect current state law.”
For the Chapter 2.05 amendment, Harper explained, “On this ordinance, we are specifying that members of the media and the county are prohibited from disclosing any matters that are discussed in executive session and that if a person does disclose a matter, they may be liable for a penalty of up to $1,000 per occurrence.
“The ordinance also prohibits the use of any recordings during executive session and continues to specify that electronic equipment that distracts from meetings is prohibited.”
Changes to the Finance Department chapter were also referred to as minor “housekeeping” updates, notably changing how the department is referred to in the county code from “Department of Budget and Finance” to simply “Department of Finance.”
Commissioner Dan DeYoung wanted to ensure that the responsibilities of finance director will remain the same despite this change in nomenclature; he was assured the job description remains the same. As has always been the case, it is the duty of the finance director, “To act as the Josephine County Budget Officer and to prepare the annual county budget.”
The change made to Chapter 2.20 was very cut and dry – the chapter was repealed in its entirety and the entity it referred to, the Unified Board of Appeals, was officially disbanded, as it has been inactive for years.
Harper explained, “What used to happen under state law is that if the building official, the county building official, made a decision that a person wanted to appeal, they would be required to appeal to this Unified Board of Appeals that was appointed by the Board of Commissioners. State law has changed and now any appeals of the building official are required to go up to the state building official. And so the Unified Board of Appeals no longer exists.”

After hearing Harper’s presentations on all three proposed code changes, the commissioners unanimously approved them.

During requests and comments from citizens, several individuals urged the board to pass an ordinance declaring that Josephine County is a “non-sanctuary” county, meaning it will not harbor illegal immigrants as they go through the process of obtaining citizenship. The commissioners had doubts about the legality of this, as Oregon is a sanctuary state and passing an ordinance to the contrary would likely result in litigation.

One of the petitioners stressed, “If we just keep sitting back and don’t do anything about these things, we are going to be the minority in this country.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Jessica McClintock was appointed to a four-year term on the Parks Advisory Committee.

At today’s weekly business session, the board is expected to renew an agreement with Options for Southern Oregon for mental health services using an Oregon Health Authority grant. Appointments will be made to the Illinois Valley Airport Advisory Board and Bikeways and Walkways Committee.