A candidate for a seat on the governing board of the group that delivers electricity to parts of Columbia County is crying foul after being disqualified from winning a seat, despite garnering 62 percent of the vote on November 8.
Nancy Ward says the board is ignoring the will of the voters, in order to appoint a candidate of their choosing to the open board seat.
“This really smacks of a time when there was a good ol’ boy system, and the good ol’ boys could pick whoever they wanted,” said Ward.
Board members of the Columbia River Public Utility District strongly disagree, pointing out that Ward is ineligible to run for the seat. Ward, along with 239 others, lives outside the boundaries of the district in a floating home in a marina on the river near Scappoose.
“That’s where the boundary is, they’re outside the boundary, and they can’t legally be a director,” said Board Chairman Jake Carter.
Carter said the board’s legal counsel determined that seating Ward would be illegal.
“If we were to do that, it would put the PUD in some sort of liability issue.”
Ward and her supporters disagree, saying they believe state law allows the board to seat Ward, and figure out the boundary issues later. Ward’s marina would have to be annexed into PUD Subdivision 1.
“Let’s fix this. Let’s seat me, put me on the board, and then let’s fix this situation,” said Ward.
In the meantime, the issue has proved to be divisive in this swath of Columbia County, which includes Scappoose and St. Helens. The local newspaper, the South County Spotlight, has called for the board to seat Ward. State Senator Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, has called for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to step in and sort out the dispute.
Carter said the board’s plan is to appoint an eligible member when the term runs out for Dave Baker.