Willamette Valley News, Friday 6/14 – Life Jacket Exchange on Saturday June 15th at Springfield Elks Lodge, K9 Ripp Captures Two Suspects in One Night, Annual Police K9 Competition in Springfield & Other Local and Statewide News…

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Friday, June 14, 2024

Willamette Valley Weather

Life Jacket Exchange on Saturday June 15th at Springfield Elks Lodge

Lane County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue and the Springfield Elks Club will be holding a Life Jacket Exchange on June 15th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Springfield Elks lodge, located at 1701 Centennial Blvd, Springfield. The program’s mission is to ensure every child playing in or near the water has a properly fitting life jacket. 

Bring your child and their outgrown or lightly used life jacket to the Springfield Elks Club parking lot on June 15th and exchange it for a properly fitting child’s life jacket. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office and local Elks will be there to help check jackets for form, fit, and function. Life jackets that are turned in for exchange are inspected for safety and handed back out at the event.  Any additional life jackets left over after the event will be distributed to life jacket loaner stations throughout the county.

This event is first come first served and the child will need to be present to ensure they get a proper size.

The Life Jacket Exchange was a staple of the Lane County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue for many years thanks to community donations. The Springfield Elks Lodge generously donated life jackets and their facility for the event this year. We are excited to offer this program again to ensure the safety of our community’s children while they enjoy Lane County’s many beautiful water ways.  

K9 Ripp Captures Two Suspects in One Night

On the evening of June 4th, Lane County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a dispute in the 21900 block of Vaughn Road. Autumn Rae Dowty, 46, had returned to the property after release from jail, in violation of her probation. Deputies responded, but she hid on the large, forested property before they arrived. K9 Ripp was deployed and soon found Dowty on a hillside hiding under a blanket. Dowty refused to comply with instructions. K9 Ripp apprehended Dowty, allowing deputies to safely arrest her. Dowty was lodged at the Lane County Jail on the probation violation.  

Just a few hours later, deputies responded to a trespass in the 84600 block of Laughlin Road. Enoch Sunray Michener, 45, had been arrested for trespassing at the location the night before. He arrived back on the property after dark. K9 Ripp was again deployed and tracked Michener to a neighboring property, where he also did not have permission to be. Michener was arrested without further incident and lodged at the Lane County Jail on two counts of Trespass in the 2nd Degree.  

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit is funded by community donations. All donations go directly to the K9 program to supply food, veterinary care, and equipment. Learn more and donate at www.lanecounty.org/government/county_departments/sheriff_s_office/about_us_-_now_and_then/police_services_division/k9_unit

Police K9s from across the state will participate in the annual Police K9 Competition this Saturday, June 15, 2024, at the Hamlin Sports Complex in Springfield

K9s and their handlers will take part in four events where they can put their skills up against about a dozen other K9/handler pairings. The competition will test the K9’s agility, searching skills, speed, apprehending suspects and more.

The event is hosted by the Springfield Police Department and is a part of their effort to make their presence known within the community. One goal the competition hopes to accomplish is increase transparency and to educate the public. Units from the Eugene Police Department, Lane County Sheriff’s Office, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will also compete.

Firefighters Respond to Fire in Downtown Springfield

Eugene Springfield Fire is on scene of a commercial fire at Planktown Brewing at 346 Main St in Downtown Springfield.  Crews were called at 8:02 AM on Thursday June 13th to a reported fire behind the range.  Engine 4 from 5th and Centennial arrived 4-1/2 minutes after the call to find fire burning behind a range.  

Crews extinguished the fire are are overhauling the area to prevent further extension to the building.  Thanks to early notification and a quick response, the fire was kept small and declared under control in 19 minutes saving a historic downtown building.  The cause is under investigation. 

6/12/24 – Animal Neglect suspect sentenced to 4 years in prison, 3 years post-prison supervision in Lane County, concurrent sentence in Linn County

In 2020, Creswell-area resident Raina Ott entered into a deferred sentencing agreement related to neglect of horses. In January 2023, she was found to have violated the agreement. Ott was convicted, given a 45-day jail sentence, and was put on probation. She was prohibited from any dealings or contact with animals.

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Between April 2023 and January 2024, Ott committed a series of probation violations and crimes. Ott purchased nearly 100 head of cattle at livestock auctions in Linn and Lane County using fake names, then sold them via social media. The check used to finalize one purchase bounced. The cows were not returned, nor was the balance paid. In a separate case, Ott switched price tags on items she then purchased at an animal care supply store in Eugene. The total loss to the store was just under $1,000.

On May 17th in Lane County, Ott pled to five counts of Identity Theft, five counts of Theft 1, one count of Theft 2, three counts of felony Animal Neglect 1, two counts of Animal Neglect 2, and being in violation of her probation. Ott was sentenced to 48 months in prison, with 36 months post-prison supervision. She will also be required to pay restitution in two of the involved cases.  

On June 12th in Linn County, Ott pled guilty to Aggravated Theft 1 and Negotiating a Bad Check. Ott was given a sentence concurrent to her Lane County sentence. She also was ordered to pay just over $11,000 in restitution to the involved auction yard.

For their work on these cases, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Oregon Department of Justice, Lane County District Attorney’s Office, Linn County District Attorney’s Office, Eugene Police Department, Lane County Animal Services, Greenhill Humane Society, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.  

Juveniles involved in animal abuse case referred to detention — UPDATE — Additional juvenile in custody

Today, Salem Police Felony Crimes Unit detectives arrested another juvenile in the animal abuse case. 

A 15-year-old boy was taken into custody at his residence in northeast Salem on the following charges:

  • Aggravated animal abuse, first-degree
  • Tampering with evidence
  • Interfering with a peace officer

The juvenile was transported to the Marion County Juvenile Department. The case remains an active investigation. Anyone with information about the case can call the Salem Police Tips Line at 503‑588‑8477.

All further inquiries concerning any of the juvenile arrests made to date must be directed to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.

# # # Originally published 06/05/2024 | 3:15 p.m.

Juveniles involved in animal abuse case referred to detention

Salem, Ore. — In the early morning hours of Friday, May 10, officers responded to the report of a cat that was shot and killed in the 2200 block of Lee ST SE. A surveillance system recorded the incident showing several suspects involved. 

The case received much attention from the community after the cat’s owner released a video of several suspects with their pet. The recording showed one of the individuals shooting the cat several times.

Salem Police Felony Crimes Unit detectives have identified two local teens connected to that incident. The male juveniles, each 17 years of age, were referred to the Marion County Juvenile Department on Tuesday, June 4, each charged with first-degree aggravated animal abuse. One of the teens was also referred on the charge of evidence tampering.

Detectives have been investigating this incident and interviewed multiple individuals. However, the suspect who shot the animal remains unidentified and the weapon has not been recovered.

Initially, some tips were received, and detectives again ask for the public’s help to identify the primary suspect. Those with information about the case can call the Salem Police Tips Line at 503-588-8477.

LCSO Case #24-3024 – Deceased Eugene Man Recovered from McKenzie River

On June 5th, Lane County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue and Upper McKenzie Fire personnel began searching the McKenzie River in the area of Belknap Hot Springs for a subject who had been observed in the water just before dark.  No other information was known about the subject, and despite extensive search efforts, no one was located.  

On June 8th, the Eugene Police Department received a report of a missing person, Tyler Dean Perkins, 26, who was believed to be camping in the area.  Lane County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue resumed their efforts, and on the afternoon of June 9th, located Perkins deceased in a log jam in the river.  Due to the time of day and dangerous water conditions, plans were made for a recovery mission the next day. On June 10th, Perkins was recovered from the river.  

Lane County to Auction Six Properties

Lane County is conducting a sealed-bid auction of real property now through 11:00 a.m. PST on Monday, July 22, 2024. Bids will be opened at 11:00 a.m. on July 23, and winners will be notified by telephone and email. The opening of bids will be livestreamed on Lane County’s YouTube channel

Included in the auction are lots located in Springfield, Florence, Triangle Lake, Fall Creek and Pleasant Hill. The Springfield property includes a single-family home, one Florence property includes a manufactured home, and the remainder are vacant lots. The properties up for auction range from a $3,500 minimum bid to a $150,000 minimum bid.

The properties have minimum bid amounts and will not be sold for less than the minimum bid. The properties will be sold on an as-is basis using a quitclaim deed, which passes any title, claim or interest in the property to the buyer without making any representations regarding other claims or liens. 

Payment must be made with cash, cashier’s checks or certified back checks payable to Lane County. No personal or business checks, debit and credit cards or financing will be accepted. A 20 percent deposit of the minimum bid amount is due within 24 hours of the bid opening. The remaining balance, plus a $100 recording fee, is due no later than 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, 2024. 

For more information including a complete list of auction terms, property descriptions and registration information, visit www.LaneCountyOR.gov/PropertyManagement under the “Available Properties” section. 

Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Albany listed in National Register of Historic Places

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Albany, Linn County is among Oregon’s latest entries in the National Register of Historic Places.

Oregon’s State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation recommended the property’s nomination at their February 2024 meeting. The National Park Service—which maintains the National Register—accepted the nomination on May 20, 2024. 

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was constructed in 1892 and enlarged in 1917 by and for the congregation of Mt. Pleasant Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The property is locally significant under National Register Criterion C as an excellent example of a Queen Anne style church. Queen Anne architectural design was not commonly used in churches. Cumberland Presbyterian is extensively decorated with shingles, ornate mouldings, frieze boards, sunbursts, rosettes, and colored glass windows. After a lengthy community effort, in 2021 the church was moved three blocks east of its original location. Before, during and after the move, extreme care was taken to preserve the structure and its character defining architectural features. The building is now operated as the non-profit Cumberland Community Event Center.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is one of 23 individually listed historic properties in Albany. The National Register of Historic Places was established as part of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. 

More information about the National Register and recent Oregon listings can be found online at www.oregonheritage.org (listed under “designate”).

Oregon State Police Traffic Stop on Beltline Ends in Fatal Officer Involved Shooting

On Tuesday, June 11, 2024, at 4:26 p.m., an Oregon State Trooper conducted a traffic stop at the intersection of River Avenue and State Route 569 (Beltline Highway) in Eugene.

During the encounter, the driver exited and attempted to obtain a firearm from the passenger side of the vehicle and a less lethal force option (Taser) was deployed but was not successful.

The suspect did not comply with verbal commands and was able to obtain the firearm resulting in the trooper shooting the subject with his department-issued firearm.

Emergency medical aid was immediately provided and medical personnel from Eugene-Springfield Fire Department responded; however, the subject was declared deceased at the scene. The trooper was not injured during the incident and has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by the Lane County Inter-Agency Deadly Force Investigation Team (IDFIT).

Pursuant to the Lane County District Attorney’s Office Deadly Force Plan under Senate Bill 111 of the 2007 Oregon Legislative Session, IDFIT is conducting the investigation with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office assuming the primary role for this officer-involved shooting investigation.  

IDFIT is comprised of investigators from the Oregon State Police, Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Eugene Police Department, Springfield Police Department, Cottage Grove Police Department, and Florence Police Department.  Any further information will be released by the Lane County District Attorney’s Office.

ROAD CLOSURE — Old Mill Road (Office Covered Bridge)

Road name: Old Mill Road

Location: Office Covered Bridge (Westfir)

Closure Location: The bridge and road through the bridge are closed. 

Dates and times: Thursday, June 20, 2024 – Sunday, June 23, 2024     

Alternate routes: None.

Reason for closure: Mountain Bike Oregon is hosting its Annual Mountain Bike Camp from June 20 at 1:00 p.m. until June 23 at 4:00 p.m.

Getting Ready for U.S. Olympics Track And Field Team Trials at Hayward Field

The U.S. Olympic team trials are just around the corner. At the end of June, hundreds of top athletes will compete for a spot in Paris, but only so many will qualify and it all comes down to what happens at Hayward Field.

The trials begin June 21 and conclude June 30 at Hayward Field in Eugene. At least one final race will be held during each evening session.

VIEW SCHEDULE HERE: https://www.usatf.org/events/2024/2024-u-s-olympic-team-trials-%E2%80%94-track-field/schedule

While the track and field trials are a long event, held over eight days, there’s no better place to see Olympic athletes compete than Hayward Field.

Here’s how to get tickets for the competition: https://am.ticketmaster.com/haywardtrackandfield/buy — MORE INFO: https://www.usatf.org/events/2024/2024-u-s-olympic-team-trials-%E2%80%94-track-field

Salem Police Department – Investigators Seek Potential Witness in Suspicious Death Investigation

Salem, OR — Detectives from the Salem Police Criminal Investigations Section are currently investigating the death of a 28-year-old Salem woman. 

Just before 2:00 a.m. on May 23, emergency personnel responded to the call of a woman lying in the roadway in the 1000 block of Rural AV SE. Responding paramedics determined the woman was deceased.

The woman is identified as Carla Fernanda Vasquez, age 28, of Salem. Detectives are handling the incident as a suspicious death investigation.

Surveillance video near the area where Vasquez was found shows a passing motorist minutes before the call to police was received. A light-colored vehicle, possibly a van or mid-size, crossover SUV, is seen in the video traveling eastbound on Rural AV as it passes Church ST. Detectives ask for the public’s help in locating this potential witness. 

If you are the driver or know the person driving in the area on that early Thursday morning, or if you have information about the case, please call Salem Police detectives at 503-588-8477. 

# # # Video URL: salempd.info/case-24-43327

Eugene Police Department · Seeking any additional victim reports

On June 4, a man identified as 34-year-old Kerry Michael Diamond was arrested after a report he had followed a woman into a store near W. 11th Avenue and Seneca Road, solicited her for sex, and had pulled out his genitalia in front of her. He was arrested for Public Indecency and during the investigation, detectives found social media posts that indicate there may have been other victims.

If anyone has been victimized or witnessed Diamond engaged in this behavior, please contact Detective Katherine McCartney, 541-214-0881.

Diamond, is age 34, with brown hair, brown eyes, and a thin build. The activity being investigated generally includes exposing his genitalia to women and children, propositioning women for sex in exchange for money or inviting them to perform in a “porno” with him, and masturbating in public. Case 24-07988

Praxis Health is Expanding in Eugene with a New Medical Clinic – Pearl Street Medical

Eugene, OR – Praxis Health is pleased to announce the grand opening of Pearl Street Medical, a new Primary Care location in Eugene, Oregon that will expand our team and provide more high-quality healthcare services for the Eugene & Springfield community. This expansion marks the continued growth of Praxis Health (gopraxishealth.com), Oregon’s largest, independent medical group.  

Pearl Street Medical will officially open to new patients on August 1st, 2024, and will be located at 1835 Pearl St, Eugene, OR 97401. Pearl Street Medical will be our 5th location in the Eugene and Springfield area, whose locations already offer a number of services including primary care, internal medicine, allergy, and endocrinology. 

Pearl Street Medical is focused on providing the highest possible level of compassionate, individualized care. As an organization that is family-owned and operated, we believe in the importance of delivering community-oriented care through accessible services that optimize the health and quality of life for all persons. We recognize that patients’ trust in their healthcare professionals is extremely valuable to clinical practice, ensuring that their personal needs are placed at the forefront. 

Praxis Health is rooted in our local communities and our goal is to remain connected to the people and places as we continue to grow. We promise to continue to deliver outstanding, personalized care to all of our patients while honoring the needs of each community that we serve. For more information about us, please visit our website at PearlStreetMedical.com 

Quote from our Regional Administrator:  

Our commitment to supporting our community drives us to open the new Pearl Street Medical clinic. Since 1997, our founders, Drs. Kirk and Kraig Jacobson, have been at the forefront of community healthcare. They combined practices and expanded facilities to create what is now known as Oak Street Medical Clinic and Oregon Allergy Associates. Recognizing the growing healthcare needs of the community at the time, they made it their mission to support its growth. Recognized as a 5-star medical home for the highest quality care and reducing healthcare costs, we focus on caring for patients through a variety of acute and chronic illnesses with the idealism of community and compassion. 

Now, in 2024, they see the need to act again and help increase access to healthcare in our community. With Pearl Street Medical Clinic, we continue their legacy of commitment and service with the support of Praxis Medical Group, striving to improve the health and well-being of those we serve. 

We welcome all those looking for a new healthcare home.

– Dr. Viet Tran – Regional Administrator

Lane County targeted by Automated Phone Scam

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has received dozens of reports this morning from our community about an automated phone scam claiming to be our agency.  The scam is originating from or providing a callback number of 541-361-3786, and all options on the phone tree result in the caller being asked to send an email to a fraudulent email address, usually some variation of “info” at “civil service agency”.  

Residents are advised not to call the scammer back or email any address provided. If you are contacted by this scam, please report it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at www.ic3.gov

We will NEVER ask for money by phone, text, or email.  We will NEVER call you about missed jury duty. Scammers usually claim there are warrants, missed jury duty, or unsettled legal issues.  The scammers then ask for payment or personal information, often to avoid arrest.  In some instances, the scammers appear to call from official phone numbers or provide fraudulent callback numbers with official-sounding voicemail inboxes.  They often already have some personal information based on the phone number they called.

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a Lane County Sheriff’s Office employee and you think you are being scammed, please hang up and contact our dispatch center at 541-682-4141. — Please share with your friends and family!

Lane County Firewise Grant Program open for applications

Lane County’s Firewise Grant Incentive Program is accepting applications from residents in unincorporated Lane County beginning May 31 through 4:00 p.m. on June 27, 2024.

Firewise grants provide rural property owners with funding to help complete projects that reduce the risk of wildfire, such as clearing vegetation, replacing wood shake roofing, fire-resistant landscaping materials, noncombustible exterior siding, chimney spark arrestors, and more. Up to $15,500 in grant funding is available for each qualifying property. 

Apply online at www.LaneCountyOR.gov/firewise. Paper applications are also available at the Lane County Public Works Customer Service Center (3050 North Delta Highway, Eugene). 

Firewise grants are funded through Title III of the Federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Program – Section 601 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. 

Housing and Community Needs Survey

2025 Consolidated Plan image

Are you familiar with the challenges of finding, maintaining, or paying for housing in the Eugene-Springfield area? Do you have insights into the local need for housing, human services and community/economic development programs? Please help identify our local housing and community needs for low- and moderate-income people by completing the short survey below.  TAKE THE SURVEY

CAHOOTS and HOOTS Workers Rally for Wage Increase and Other Contract Issues

It has been more than a year since White Bird Clinic and its unionized crisis workers began negotiations and they still haven’t reached an agreement on a new contract.

Support CAHOOTS and HOOTS Workers Win a Fair First Contract NOW — PETITION

Did you know the $18/hr starting wage for CAHOOTS and HOOTS workers hasn’t changed since 2018? Sign this letter of support to help CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets) and HOOTS (Helping Out Our Teens in Schools) unionized workers win their first fair union contract with White Bird Clinic.

CAHOOTS medics and crisis workers have been proudly supporting their fellow community members on the streets and in the houses, schools, businesses, shelters, hospitals and healthcare offices of every neighborhood in Eugene since 1989. CAHOOTS later expanded service into Springfield in 2015 and soon founded its sister program HOOTS in 2017. These programs provide free crisis intervention, mental health and medical aid to whoever is in need (for CAHOOTS that’s an average of 20,000+ calls a year; HOOTS provides 28 clinics in 12 high schools). 

Today, their workers need your support. Show your commitment to sustaining workers and protecting the integrity of the CAHOOTS model that has been called “the gold standard”* for alternative response models nationally. Sign here to ensure crisis workers and medics who are dedicating their lives towards helping others win a living wage. Learn more about our campaign

https://www.change.org/p/support-cahoots-and-hoots-workers-win-a-fair-first-contract-now

Former ICU nurse finally arrested on suspicion of replacing fentanyl with tap water at Asante in Medford

Dani Marie Schofield, who worked at Asante Rogue Regional Hospital in Oregon, faces 44 counts of second-degree assault, according to police.

A former intensive care unit nurse has been arrested for allegedly swapping patients’ pain medication with tap water, police in Medford, Oregon, announced Thursday.

Dani Mari Schofield faces 44 counts of assault in the second degree, charges that “reflect the total amount of patients that this investigation revealed to have been affected by Schofield’s criminal actions,” the Medford Police Department said in a statement.

Assault in the second-degree charges are filed when an individual “intentionally or knowingly causes serious physical injury to another,” the statement said.

The arrest comes nearly seven months after officials at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, a 378-bed hospital in Medford, contacted police with concerns about a growing number of central line infections among patients. Central lines are tubes put into large veins to administer medication.

“There was concern that Schofield had been diverting patients’ liquid fentanyl for her personal use and then replacing it with tap water, causing serious infections,” Thursday’s police statement said.

Police did not say how many of the patients that Schofield allegedly mistreated had died. In March, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estate of Horace Wilson, an Asante patient who died after he was admitted to the hospital with a lacerated spleen and broken ribs following a fall off a ladder in January 2022.

The lawsuit alleged that while hospitalized, Wilson’s pain medication was replaced with nonsterile tap water, introducing bacteria into his bloodstream that led to his death.

The lawsuit named both Asante and Schofield as defendants, accusing them of negligence. Neither responded to requests for comment at the time.

The allegations of drug diversion — a term that refers to misappropriating prescribed medications, sometimes to abuse or illegally sell them — were first reported by NBC affiliate KOBI-TV in Medford in December 2023. The station said that at least one patient at Asante had died after a nurse allegedly diverted their pain medication.

An attorney for Schofield, who police said left Asante in July 2023, did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Records from the Oregon State Board of Nursing show that Schofield voluntarily agreed in November 2023 to a nursing license suspension, “pending completion of an investigation.”

In an internal memo sent Thursday to Asante employees after police announced Schofield’s arrest, President and CEO Tom Gessel thanked law enforcement for its “tireless work since our team brought concerns forward to them.” (SOURCE)

Costco Recalls Some Tillamook Cheese Products Sold in Northwest

Costco is recalling some Tillamook cheese products due to the possible presence of plastic materials.

In a letter to Costco members who purchased the recalled product, a Tillamook executive said the cheese may contain “gray and black plastic pieces.”

A 32-ounce twin-pack package of Tillamook Colby Jack and Tillamook Monterey Jack cheese slices, with item number 651195, is among the recalled products, according to the company. The company said that the cheese was available at Costco locations in the Northwest from May 9 through May 31. The best before date for the recalled product is October 22, 2024.

Costco stated the cheese was made for its Northwest region sites, but it did not say which retail locations the recalled goods had been shipped to. Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Montana, and Idaho are states in the Northwest region.

It’s unclear, however, how many products or Costco stores in total the recall impacts. The Tillamook letter noted the recalled cheese was only produced for Costco locations in the Northwest region.  

According to the letter, the cheese slices impacted are “in a limited quantity” and the presence of plastic, if consumed without issue, “is very minimal.”

Bever notes that Costco members who still have the product should return the affected cheese slices for a full refund, however. 

Keeping Oregon Accountable Summary Report Shows Significant Corrective Action, but Ongoing Control Weaknesses at Federally Funded Programs

In their report, the Oregon secretary of state’s office identified $2.9 billion in accounting errors, which they concluded were unintentional mistakes.

The Oregon secretary of state’s office has published a massive report detailing the audits they conducted on state government programs in 2023, monitoring the billions of dollars in extra tax money gathered by the state over the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the report, titled “Keeping Oregon Accountable,” state auditors identified $2.9 billion in accounting errors, which they concluded were unintentional mistakes, and proposed ways to fix those mistakes.

Auditors also combed through the books of 18 federal programs spread between 11 state agencies, issuing a total of 31 findings and recommendations.


Every year, the Secretary of State Audits Division conducts two major financial audits: the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report and Statewide Single Audit. Auditors also draft and release a report summarizing both of these audits. The summary report for fiscal year 2023, called Keeping Oregon Accountable, was released today.

Last year’s summary report was somewhat of an anomaly, including the first adverse opinion and disclaimer of opinion issued by the Audits Division in more than 20 years. Auditors followed up on the findings that led to the unmodified opinions and found the agency had successfully taken corrective action to address the adverse opinion.

“This year’s Single Audit came with both good and bad news,” said Audits Director Kip Memmott. “I was very pleased to see the substantial corrective action to address last year’s adverse opinion. But there are still serious control weaknesses at other important programs that must be addressed, many of which have been ongoing for 10 or more years.”

The federal government requires audits of the state’s financial statements and compliance with federal program requirements for Oregon to continue receiving federal assistance. In the past, this funding has usually ranged from $11 to $12 billion each year, but federal funding has ballooned since the pandemic, exceeding $20 billion each year since fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2023, Oregon received $20.4 billion in federal aid.

Auditors found serious control weaknesses that, in some cases, have persisted for years. For fiscal year 2023, auditors issued six qualified opinions and a single disclaimer of opinion. No program was given an adverse opinion.

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When an audit shows controls are sufficient and the program is generally in compliance with federal requirements, auditors issue an unmodified or “clean” opinion. Modified opinions — including qualified and disclaimer of — speak to the level of concern auditors have about the quality of internal controls.

A disclaimer of opinion was issued for the Emergency Solutions Grant Program at Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS). A disclaimer of opinion means there was not sufficient, appropriate evidence for auditors to even issue an opinion on program compliance. This program also received a disclaimer of opinion in fiscal year 2022.

Qualified opinions are less severe but indicate that internal controls are still inadequate to prevent or detect significant noncompliance. Auditors issued qualified opinions for six programs at three agencies: OHCS, the Oregon Department of Human Services, and the Oregon Health Authority. Two of these programs — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program — have been issued qualified opinions for several years now.

The federal granting agencies are responsible for following up on audit findings, as they have the authority to enforce grant requirements. Failure to address critical control weaknesses could include punitive consequences, like sanctions or a change in future funding, or it could be an opportunity for the granting agency to clarify its requirements. — Read the full report on the Secretary of State website.

Oregon still fixing state employee payroll system after problems last year 

State auditors could not get complete information from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services about the $21 million system 

Auditors were unable to completely review Oregon’s new $21 million payroll and human services system that plagued thousands of state workers with inaccurate paychecks in early 2023, records show. 

The finding is contained within the Secretary of State’s statewide single audit, released this week, that looks at a variety of state government agencies and programs. The Oregon Department of Administrative Services implemented the payroll system, called Workday, in December 2022 for about 44,000 state government employees after years of planning to replace an older system. 

Immediately, thousands of state workers began experiencing problems with their paychecks. Some didn’t receive their full pay and turned  to food banks, credit cards or borrowing money to stay afloat. Others received paper checks instead of direct deposits and had to float bills with credit cards while waiting for checks to clear, and some employees who were overpaid had large sums subtracted from future checks without notice. 

In May 2023, Oregon Department of Administrative Services officials said they did not identify any systemic problems with payroll that month but declined at the time to provide the Capital Chronicle with an estimate of how many errors the system had.

Nearly a year later, state auditors said they struggled to get full and complete information from the department, which prevented them from fully assessing the system. 

“Given the lack of availability of key system documentation and the department’s inability to provide timely responses to audit requests, we were unable to complete our audit procedures intended to identify and test internal controls,” auditors wrote. 

For example, auditors said they received incomplete and outdated records when they requested documentation that would demonstrate the agency’s due diligence when planning a project of this size. 

In other instances, auditors said they faced long waits for information such as the number of employees impacted and the total dollar amount of overpayments or underpayments. Those delays also hampered their ability to complete the audit, they wrote. 

“The information was not readily available to provide to auditors, indicating a lack of organization expected of a project of this magnitude,” they wrote.

Based on the available data, auditors said the results suggest a lack of adequate testing to flag problems before the rollout. About 4,500 state employees – or roughly 10% of the workforce – were underpaid or overpaid in January 2023, auditors said. In each of the next two pay periods, more than 2,000 state workers were improperly paid. 

“The number of employee paychecks impacted, and the variety of underlying causes identified by the department, indicate testing of the configuration was either not sufficiently scoped or not properly conducted,” auditors wrote.

Auditors recommended the state put proper controls in place for payroll processing, take steps to eliminate errors in employee pay and provide and communicate better guidance about the system to agencies.

Agency response 

In their response to the audit, Oregon Department of Administrative Services managers said the agency worked with state employees and payroll offices to correct underpayments and recoup overpayments. 

“Efforts remain underway, and significant progress has been made to track and resolve the issue,” the agency wrote in its response. 

They said the agency plans to fulfill all the audit’s recommendations by Dec. 31. 

The agency has refused to provide numbers about the scope of the problem to the Capital Chronicle. Agency spokesperson Andrea Chiapella refused to answer questions about how widespread the payroll issues currently are or detail what remaining work is left to resolve the issues, citing ongoing litigation about the issue. 

In January 2023, state employees filed a class-action lawsuit about the payroll system’s problems, which is ongoing. The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, currently is scheduled to go to trial in April 2025.

Last year, the agency declined a public records request from the Capital Chronicle for the estimated number of payroll errors, saying those figures were compiled for litigation.   (SOURCE)

Providence Hospital Nurses Prepare to Strike Across Oregon 

More than 3,000 nurses in six Providence hospitals could participate in the three-day strike, which is due to start in a week

In a week, thousands of nurses at six Providence hospitals in Oregon will go on a three-day strike that could be the largest in the state’s history. 

The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents more than 3,000 nurses at the six hospitals, has delivered a 10-day notice to the management at the nonprofit Providence Health & Services, Oregon’s largest hospital group. The group intends for the strike to start at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18.

It’s unclear how the strike might affect patients. Providence officials plan to bring in substitute nurses during the three days and say they’ll continue to provide comprehensive services. 

The strike plans follow simmering tensions between Providence, the largest Portland-area employer and the nurses tied to Oregon’s Safe Staffing Law. The Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Tina Kotek signed it into law in 2023. House Bill 2697 sets a minimum for nurse-to-patient ratios and establishes a process for hospital employees and management to agree upon staffing levels and plans. 

Other issues include competitive compensation and affordable health care plans, the nurses union said. The strike is set to unfold at hospitals that stretch from southern Oregon to the Portland region. The six hospitals are: Providence St. Vincent in southwest Portland, Providence Newberg, Providence Willamette Falls in Oregon City, Providence Medford, Providence Hood River and Providence Milwaukie. Nurses at Providence Portland Medical Center in northeast Portland did not join the strike notice.

Providence officials say they have dealt fairly with the nurses. Nurses and leaders with the nurses association said the planned strike is necessary after a four-day mediation last week demonstrated hospital managers aren’t interested in making serious proposals.

“At Providence Medford, we are facing a staffing crisis, and our nurses are overworked, offered low quality health care, and paid less than the current market for nurses in Medford,” Caroline Allison, a registered nurse at Providence Medford, said in a release. “Adding insult to injury, it has now become clear that Providence appears to be systematically trying to undermine Oregon’s Safe Staffing Law. The Safe Staffing Law was intended to solve the nurse workforce shortage crisis and allow us to greatly enhance patient care. Instead, Providence has again made the decision to focus on its bottom lines instead of their workforce, their communities and their patients.” (READ MORE)

Substance use disorder recovery infrastructure gets $13 million boost from Opioid Settlement Board

OHA will administer allocations recommended by State Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Board (Settlement Board) is directing $13.08 million toward expanding and strengthening the state’s recovery community centers and recovery housing.

The Settlement Board approved an Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADPC) proposal to improve access to recovery community centers and housing by providing $11.75 million to establish centers in counties highly impacted by overdoses, yet with the least access to recovery services, including:

  • $2 million to the Gorge Recovery Center in Wasco County.
  • $2.36 million to the Bay Area First Step Recovery Center in Curry County.
  • $2.39 million to the Painted Horse Recovery Center in Douglas County.
  • $5 million for recovery centers in Josephine and Klamath counties, to be identified by the ADPC Recovery Subcommittee, in collaboration with OHA and relevant partners.

The allocation also includes $500,000 to Oxford House for personnel support, and $830,000 for the expansion of culturally specific and youth services in existing recovery community centers throughout the state.

The funding was awarded to OHA, which will administer the allocations. The Settlement Board’s decision can be viewed in a recording of its June 5 meeting here.

“The Settlement Board is excited to support recovery services across the state,” said Settlement Board Co-Chair Annaliese Dolph. “This investment prioritizes high-need communities lacking access to supports for people in recovery, another step toward an adequate continuum of care in Oregon.”

Prior to awarding any funding, OHA must engage the partners listed in the ADPC proposal and provide a proposed timeline and implementation plan to the Settlement Board for approval no later than Sept. 1, 2024.

Since July 2021, the State of Oregon has reached agreement on national lawsuits against several companies for their role in the opioid crisis. Through these agreements, nearly $600 million will be awarded to Oregon over the course of 18 years. Settlement funds from opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are divided between the State of Oregon (45%) and local jurisdictions (55%).

The state’s share is deposited as it becomes available into the Opioid Settlement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery (OSPTR) Fund. This fund is controlled by the 18-member OSPTR Board.

Local jurisdictions receiving settlement funds (those with populations greater than 10,000) decide how their funds are used. Cities and counties are required to report to the Oregon Department of Justice annually on how they have allocated their funds.

For state and local spending details from Fiscal Year 2022 – 2023, please refer to the Oregon Opioid Settlement Spending Report: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/SUBSTANCEUSE/OPIOIDS/Documents/opioid-settlement-report-fy-22-23.pdf

OSPTR Board allocations to date

Throughout the current fiscal biennium that ends in June 2025, about $91.2 million will be deposited into the OSPTR Fund. Prior to the Recovery allocation, the OSPTR Board made the following allocations:

  • $27.7 million to the nine Federally Recognized Tribes in Oregon – this is equivalent to 30% of all funds anticipated this biennium. This 30% set-aside will continue throughout the life of the fund as additional settlement payments are deposited.
  • $4 million to develop a unified and evidence-based state system for collecting, analyzing and publishing data about the availability and efficacy of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services in Oregon as required by 2022 House Bill 4098.
  • $13.7 million to the Save Lives Oregon Harm Reduction Clearinghouse to distribute naloxone and other life-saving supplies to qualified entities.
  • $13.7 million to build Oregon’s workforce capacity for primary substance use disorder prevention.

The OSPTR Board will next consider additional investments in treatment; research and evaluation; and emerging issues.

To learn more about Oregon’s opioid settlement funds, visit oregon.gov/opioidsettlement.

Southern Oregon Joint Task Force Serves Two Local Child Porn Search Warrants

JCSO Cases 24-1658, 24-2249

ROGUE VALLEY, Ore. – The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force served two search warrants yesterday, June 11 in separate residences in Eagle Point and rural Grants Pass. According to the initial investigation, the cases do not appear to be connected. Detectives are interviewing possible witnesses and involved parties, and investigations are ongoing.

SOCET served the first search warrant yesterday just after 7 a.m. at a residence in the 100 block of Keystone Way in Eagle Point. SOCET began the investigation after a suspect sent child exploitation imagery to undercover law enforcement. Eagle Point Police Department assisted with the warrant service.

Investigators served the second search warrant at 1:30 p.m. in a converted school bus on a property in the 6500 block of Rogue River Highway in rural Grants Pass near the town of Rogue River. The investigation began after a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children started the investigation, which led to subpoenas, followed by the search warrant at the residence. Josephine County Parole & Probation assisted with the warrant service.

SOCET was assisted by Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies and detectives, Oregon State Police (OSP), and Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force (SOHTCTF) investigators. During the warrants, investigators seized digital devices which will be forensically examined by SOHTCTF for further evidence of child exploitation. 

SOCET is a joint inter-agency task force that started in June of 2020 to combat child exploitation. The task force consists of investigators from JCSO and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as well as prosecutors from our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Jackson and Josephine County. SOHTCTF is a joint inter-agency task force that consists of investigators from JCSO, HSI, OSP, and Medford Police Department. There is no further information available for release.

Oregon’s 2024 Minimum Wage Increase Takes Effect July 1st

A 50-cent hike to Oregon’s minimum wage will bring baseline pay in the Portland area just to the doorstep of $16 an hour this summer.

Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries announced Tuesday that the minimum wage in the Portland area will rise to $15.95. In urban counties outside the Portland area, the minimum wage will be $14.70 an hour. And in rural counties, the minimum will be $13.70. The change takes effect July 1.

Oregon has had a tiered minimum wage since 2017, when the state Legislature approved a series of minimum wage increases but kept the minimum lower in more rural parts of the state, reasoning that the cost of living was lower, too.

Since 2023, annual increases in the minimum wage have been tied to the rate of inflation. The Consumer Price Index, the inflation measure used to calculate the increase, rose 3.5% over the past year.

The increases announced Tuesday range from 2.9% for the Portland metro to 3.8% raise in rural areas.

The average Oregon hourly wage is much higher than the minimum, $31.17 last year, according to the state employment department. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009. (SOURCE)

Oregon to Receive $15 Million in Settlement Over Baby Powder Lawsuit

Women’s health organizations will get $4.7 million of the proceeds in the settlement, which is part of a national case with 43 states

Oregon will receive $15 million from Johnson & Johnson to settle allegations that the pharmaceutical and medical company marketed unsafe baby powder products to consumers.

The settlement is part of a national $700 million agreement that 43 attorneys general made with the New Jersey-based company. It’s tied to allegations that Johnson & Johnson sold baby powder and body powder products with talc, which plaintiffs alleged is linked to serious health problems that include ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer tied to asbestos exposure.

As part of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson admitted no wrongdoing, court documents show. But Johnson & Johnson stopped distributing and selling the baby powder products, sold for more than a century, when states started investigating. 

“For decades, Johnson & Johnson misled consumers about the potential harms of its talc powder products,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement . “Worse, they doubled down on the safety of those products, attacked credible scientific studies, refused to include warning labels on their products, and, at every turn, put profits ahead of lives. These decisions overwhelmingly harmed women.”

As part of the agreement, Johnson & Johnson agreed to stop manufacturing and selling its baby powder and other products that contain talc in the U.S.. The lawsuit also alleged the company targeted African American and Hispanic women in its marketing efforts to reverse declining sales. 

Four organizations will receive $4.7 million of the settlement’s proceeds for women’s health programs. 

Planned Parenthood will receive $4 million, with $2 million for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette in Portland and $2 million for Planned Parenthood Southwestern Oregon in Eugene. 

The two groups will use the money for outreach and access to health care, with an eye on eliminating disparities among marginalized communities. 

Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, which provides care for nearly 52,000 patients in Yamhill and Washington counties, will receive about $350,000 to increase access to ultrasounds for ovarian cancer screenings and offer more Hepatitis B vaccines. 

The Oregon Health & Science University Foundation will receive $275,000 for outreach and cancer screenings for tribal communities. 

And finally, the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington will get $55,750 to aid patients with ovarian cancer.

The remaining $10.3 million will go to an Oregon Department of Justice fund that the agency has discretion to use in different ways for its work, court records show. The department’s fund helps pay for various investigative, consumer protection and consumer education efforts. (SOURCE)

After settlement, Disability Rights Oregon and DHS wait for neutral expert pick

Disability Rights Oregon and the Oregon Department of Human Services will need a federal judge to pick the neutral expert to guide improvements forward 

The Oregon Department of Human Services and child advocacy groups who sued the state agency over its poor management of foster care are unable to agree on who should oversee a historic settlement that requires the state to overhaul its child welfare system.

Both sides proposed a neutral expert, and federal Judge  Ann Aiken will pick the person who will guide the work of the settlement in a class-action lawsuit for years to come. The settlement, which could last for up to 12 years, requires the state to improve its foster care system, with the neutral expert playing a key role in setting benchmarks and determining whether the agency is making adequate progress.

The two sides agreed the state needs to make improvements in areas that include that rate at which children exit and re-enter foster care, ideal living situations for children and appropriate medical, dental and mental health care.

The settlement, announced in May, ended a class-action lawsuit filed in 2019 in U.S. District Court in Eugene based on the experiences of 10 current or former foster children. Disability Rights Oregon and the national nonprofit A Better Childhood filed the lawsuit in an effort to bring systemic improvements in the foster care system, which cares for more than 4,600 children.

The lawsuit, which gained class action status in 2022, sought to better the foster care system, which has drawn scrutiny for shuffling children from home to home, using inappropriate out-of-state placements and bunking children in hotels amid a shortage of adequate housing. 

Under the terms of the settlement, the two sides are to submit names to the court if they cannot agree on an expert. That has quickly happened since the signing of the settlement, records show. 

In court papers filed Monday, Disability Rights Oregon and A Better Childhood nominated Kevin Ryan, who has served as a neutral expert in similar cases in Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas. 

Ryan’s career in child welfare started in 2002 in New Jersey, where he was that state’s first child advocate, a watchdog role in child welfare issues. Ryan was New Jersey’s human services commissioner and worked to reorganize that state’s system into “what has now become one of the best child welfare systems in the country,” the filing said.

In 2008, he left state service and now works solely as a neutral expert to monitor child welfare cases and settlement work. 

Attorneys for the Oregon Department of Human Services nominated Julie Farber, who has 30 years of child welfare experience. From 2015 until 2022, Farber was a deputy commissioner for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, the agency’s court filing said. That role included reducing the number of children in foster care. 

“Ms. Farber has dedicated her career to advocating for systemic change to improve outcomes for children and families,” the agency’s filing said.

Farber also has experience coordinating child welfare reforms in the Washington, D.C. child welfare system under a court agreement and served for five years as the policy director at Children’s Rights, Inc., an organization that has filed child welfare class-action lawsuits nationwide.  (SOURCE)

Southern Oregon Casino Battle Enters Appropriations Process

A long-stalled southern Oregon casino project pitting competing Native American tribes against each other has caught the attention of congressional appropriators, as opponents push for language in the upcoming Interior-Environment spending bill that would bar the project from moving forward.

Oregon’s Coquille Indian Tribe has long sought to build the new casino, an effort opposed by other tribes and a bipartisan army of politicians, including Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, a Democrat; all four senators from Oregon and California; and various members of the Oregon and northern California House delegations.

Representatives of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, based in Oregon, and the Karuk Tribe in northwest California asked House appropriators in hearings last month to include language in the fiscal 2025 bill that would prevent the Coquille casino, currently under review by the Interior Department, and others like it from being built.

Coquille first submitted its application for the project, which would renovate a bowling alley into a gaming facility on a 2.4-acre piece of land in Medford, Ore., in November 2012. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the proposal in 2020 under then-President Donald Trump, a decision the Biden administration reversed in late 2021 when Interior’s Office of Indian Gaming determined that the previous denial had been issued before the environmental review process was completed. A decision is still pending.

Both tribes requesting congressional intervention have casinos on the I-5 corridor, the highway that runs through Medford. Cow Creek owns Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Ore., to the north, and Karuk operates Rain Rock Casino in Yreka, Calif., to the south. 

The Coquille tribe points to the 1989 law recognizing the tribe, which lists five counties — including Jackson County, where Medford is located — as part of the tribe’s “service area.” That means members residing in that area can benefit from federal services and benefits to tribes, even if they don’t live specifically within the 1,000 acres considered to be “trust” land, or the primary reservation.

The House’s Interior-Environment appropriations bill is scheduled to be released late this month, ahead of a scheduled June 28 subcommittee markup. House Interior-Environment Appropriations Chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, did not respond to a request for comment on the tribes’ ask. 

Meade said Interior should ignore the political pressure that opponents of the project are pushing and should make its decision based on one factor: the law. 

“The Department of Interior will make a decision,” she said. “We expect them to make a decision based on the law, not on the political influence that is being packed around by some of our tribes.” (SOURCE)

Central Point Police Department says today all people involved in a weekend stabbing death are members of the same family.

Central Point Police Department (CPPD) Lieutenant Josh Abbott says police are interviewing more people today in the death investigation.  He says no names are being released from the case pending criminal charges by the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.

Abbott says Saturday’s incident involves four adults from the same family who all knew each other, including a woman hospitalized in stable condition from blunt force trauma.  He says the suspect for that trauma is different than the stabbing suspect in the case. Abbott says two men were stabbed, killing one man and hospitalizing another in stable condition today.  He says the fourth family member in the case was hurt, though not needing hospitalization.

Abbott says no arrests have occurred in the case, which involved a knife and could have involved alcohol in the 2200 block of New Haven Drive. There is not believed to be any ongoing threat to the community.

Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit and the Oregon State Police Forensic Unit are supporting CPPD detectives with the investigation.

Rodeo Bull Hops Fence at Sisters Rodeo Injuring People Before Being Captured

A rodeo in Sisters Oregon descended into chaos Saturday after a bull escaped the arena and ran loose through the event grounds, leaving three people — including a sheriff’s deputy — injured, officials said. Two people were transported to the hospital due to injuries, according to first responders.

The incident occurred around 10 p.m. PT on Saturday, during the final section of the bull-riding event at Sisters Rodeo. The bull, which was competing at the event, hopped the arena fence and ran out through the grounds and back to the livestock holding pens, according to a statement from Sisters Rodeo.

Video from the incident shared on social media showed the bull striking a rodeo attendee and lifting them off the ground twice.

No details were available on the attendee’s current condition. “Rodeo livestock professionals quickly responded to safely contain the bull,” event organizers said in the statement, adding, “It was secured next to the livestock holding pens by our rodeo pickup men and immediately placed into a pen.”

Lt. Jayson Janes, with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office, told ABC News that the sheriff’s deputy suffered a minor injury while running after the bull after it escaped. It was unclear how the third individual was injured in the melee.

The Rodeo Sports Medicine Team, Sisters-Camp Sherman RFPD, Cloverdale RFPD, rodeo staff and local law enforcement responded immediately with first aid and care, according to event organizers. Sisters Rodeo continued with scheduled events on Sunday as planned.

A southern Oregon lawmaker’s comments on a podcast suggesting non-Christians aren’t qualified to hold elected office didn’t violate legislative rules around a safe and respectful workplace, a House panel determined Monday. 

The House Committee on Conduct voted 3-1 that Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Malin, didn’t violate House rules when he told a conservative Christian podcast host that people want Christians, not atheists, Muslims or “materialists,” in government. Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, joined Republican Reps. Kevin Mannix of Salem and Ed Diehl of Stayton in voting to clear Reschke, while Rep. Thuy Tran, D-Portland, voted against. 

Reschke did not respond Monday to a request for comment. The investigation into Reschke stemmed from comments he made on a conservative Christian talk show in January that were reported by OPB. During a conversation with former Arkansas lawmaker Jason Rapert, Reschke said he was inspired to run for office because of men including George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

“You look at men and the struggles that they faced and the faith that they had, and those are the type of people that you want in government making tough decisions during tough times,” he said. “You don’t want a materialist, you don’t want an atheist, you don’t want a Muslim, you don’t want, you want somebody who understands what truth is and understands the nature of man, the nature of government and the nature of God.” 

Democratic leaders condemned his comments and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments that newly appointed state Rep. Dwayne Yunker, R-Grants Pass, had expressed on his campaign website. On the final day of the legislative session, members of civil rights groups and state Rep. Tom Andersen, D-Salem, gathered outside the Capitol to protest Reschke’s and Yunker’s comments.  (SOURCE)

The Oregon Health Athority is rasising awareness for one of the most common forms of financial fraud: Medicare fraud. 

OHA says Medicare loses $60 billion a year to fraud, errors and abuse. 

Raising awareness on 6/5 and the week after signifies the 65-yr-old and older population since most people become eligable for Medicare at 65-yrs-old.  To learn more, read the OHA blog here: https://ow.ly/VIRu50Sc7pS

Oregonians Targeted By Text Tolling Scam

A new nationwide texting scam is targeting Oregon drivers now. Ellen Klem, with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office says the phishing scheme started in the midwest earlier in the spring. “I’m honestly not surprised it’s happening now, because now is the time where everyone is gearing up to drive.”

The text claims to be from “Oregon Toll Service” and says the recipient owes an $11.69 outstanding balance; they face a $50 late fee if they don’t click on a link and pay up. Klem says some people may identify the fraud right away, because Oregon doesn’t have tolling, “But, we live next to all these other states that have tolls.” And she worries some will fall for it. 

“They are not interested in the $11,” says Klem, “They are interested in much, much more.” She believes the scammers want your personal information, and clicking on the link could allow them to access other data on your phone.

The text has all the markers of a scam, like contact out of the blue from an unknown agency. “There’s a lot of really cheap or free technology out there that allows the scammers to pretend to be somebody they’re not. So, in this case, they’re pretending to be associated with an agency that administers tolls in the state of Oregon. But that doesn’t exist,” says Klem, “Second sign: There’s some sort of emergency. In this case, you have an unpaid bill; that’s frightening to a lot of people.”

She suggests not being in such a rush to respond to every text or email, “These phones, they’re everywhere and we have this sort of automatic response to click on a link or to pick up every phone call. And, I want to remind people just to slow down and think before you click on anything.” Klem adds, “Really, at the end of the day, this is a text message that you can and you should ignore.”

If you get a text, email or phone call you’re not sure is legit, call the Oregon Department of Justice Consumer hotline at 877-877-9392. Volunteer experts are available weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

West Coast’s ShakeAlert System gets Major Upgrade

The ShakeAlert System is available to cell phone users in California, Oregon and Washington.

The U.S. Geological Survey and its partners are announcing a new capability to characterize large earthquakes quickly, helping inform the public about potentially damaging shaking headed their way. In addition to over 1500 seismic sensors that detect ground shaking, the ShakeAlert System now makes use of sensors that detect earth-surface movement via satellite.

“While rare, earthquakes greater than magnitude 7 can have the greatest impact on human lives and infrastructure,” said Robert de Groot, with the USGS ShakeAlert Operations Team. “Future major offshore earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, which could be similar to the 2011 M 9.1 earthquake in Japan, underscore the importance of incorporating satellite data stream into the ShakeAlert System.” 

The newly added ShakeAlert capability that uses data from real-time Global Navigation Satellite System sensors may more quickly and accurately determine the magnitude and the area of shaking from very large earthquakes, resulting in faster notifications for people to take a protective action, such as Drop, Cover, and Hold On. GNSS data, which includes the well-known US-based Global Positioning System, are now used in addition to seismic data to detect earthquakes. While seismic sensors measure how quickly the ground is shaking, GNSS sensors measure how far the ground moves up, down, or sideways during an earthquake. 

The ShakeAlert System, currently available in California, Oregon, and Washington, can protect people and infrastructure by delivering alerts to cell phones and triggering automatic actions like slowing down trains to prevent derailments, opening firehouse doors so they don’t jam shut, and closing valves to protect water systems.  

The ShakeAlert GNSS integration and ongoing operations is a partnership of the USGS, the National Science Foundation funded EarthScope Consortium, university partners with significant contributions from the University of Washington, Central Washington University, UC Berkeley, and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. 

The ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey in partnership with state agencies and universities and it is a public safety tool for over 50 million residents and visitors in California, Oregon, Washington. When the ShakeAlert seismic sensor buildout is completed at the end of 2025 there will be a network of over 2000 ShakeAlert stations poised to protect residents and visitors in California, Oregon, and Washington. 

For more information on how this new capability works, watch this video.   (SOURCE)

Come to the World Beat Festival to Experience Global Cultures: Ukraine is the 2024 Featured Country

Salem Multicultural Institute is excited to celebrate Ukraine as the 27th annual World Beat Festival’s featured country. World Beat is one of Salem’s premier community traditions, offering a vibrant two-day program of international music, dance, song, theater, food, crafts, customs, rituals, and folklore. This year’s festival will begin Friday evening, June 28, and run through Sunday, June 30, at Salem’s Riverfront Park.

Kathleen Fish, Executive Director, emphasizes that this is the only festival of its kind honoring the Salem/Keizer community’s rich tapestry of cultures. “There are 107 languages spoken in our school district. The festival recognizes and explores the cultures of many of these families.”

The festivities kick off Friday, June 28, from 5 to 10 p.m. with “Friday Night at the Beat,” featuring vocal performances and fire dancing on the Main Stage. 

The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, with the Children’s Parade. Kids who want to participate in the parade will assemble at the Pavilion at the North End of the park. 

Each child who attends will receive a passport at the entrance gate to collect stamps from each World Village. Village tents will feature kid-friendly cultural games and activities. This year’s activities include making cherry blossoms in the Asian Pacific Village, Pysanky (traditional egg decorating) in the European Village, Arpilleras (traditional Chilean textile art) in the Americas Village, and crafting Nguni Shields in the Africa & Middle East Village.

Adults can enjoy beverages in the beer garden while listening to live music. Boating enthusiasts can cheer on their favorite teams during the World Beat Dragon Boat Races

“We had over 25,000 guests attend last year, enjoying performances on seven stages representing more than 50 different countries and cultures. Our visitors come from all over the Northwest and even Canada,” added Fish.

Organized by the volunteer-driven Salem Multicultural Institute, the festival requires 400 volunteers annually to manage setup, stage operations, and cleanup. Volunteers contributing at least four hours receive an event T-shirt and free entry to the festival.

Admission to the festival is $10/1-day pass/adult or $15 for the weekend. Children 0-14, SNAP card holders, and Veterans are free. 

You can view a complete schedule and vendor list or sign up to volunteer atwww.worldbeatfestival.org or call (503) 581-2004. 

About the World Beat Festival: The World Beat Festival originated in the late 1990s and was conceived by two young mothers, Mona Hayes and Kathleen Fish, who wanted a space to celebrate cultural heritage. Starting with a small gathering in 1998, the festival has grown into Oregon’s largest multicultural event of its kind. www.WorldBeatFestival.org, 503-581-2004.

About the Salem Multicultural Institute (SMI): The vision of the Salem Multicultural Institute and the purpose of the World Beat Festival and World Beat Gallery are to create an environment of openness for all people. In all our activities, SMI aims to be family-friendly, economically inclusive, and culturally authentic. Visit the gallery located at 390 Liberty ST SE, Salem. www.salemmulticultural.org.

State holding open house meetings on community wildfire programs

SALEM, Ore. — A series of six open houses about the state’s new community wildfire risk reduction programs are scheduled June 3 through July 1 across Oregon. These events will offer opportunities to learn about new defensible space and home hardening standards, as well as the draft wildfire hazard map. 

The resource-fair style open houses are being held in the communities that have some of the greatest levels of wildfire hazard within the wildland-urban interface. Each open house will begin with a short presentation and introductions, but visitors may stop in at any point during the event to get questions answered about the draft hazard map and associated community wildfire programs. 

Representatives from multiple agencies will be present to have one-on-one or small group conversations to help people understand Oregon’s statewide wildfire programs.

  • Oregon Department of Forestry representatives will address questions on administrative rules and hazard zone assessment appeals.
  • Oregon State University representatives will address questions on wildfire hazard science, statewide data sources, and updates to the draft hazard map made over the last two years.
  • Oregon State Fire Marshal representatives will address questions regarding defensible space standards, code adoption process and implementation.
  • Building Codes Division representatives from the Department of Consumer and Business Services will address questions on home hardening construction standards, related code provisions, and implementation.
  • Division of Financial Regulation representatives from the Department of Consumer and Business Services will address questions on home insurance market and requirements of insurers under Senate Bill 82 (2023).
  • Wildfire Programs Advisory Council members will address questions on statewide policy direction for wildfire programs and council business.

Meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Redmond—Monday, June 3, Deschutes County Fairgrounds and Expo Center, South Sister Hall, 3800 SW Airport Way, Redmond, OR 97756
  • La Grande—Tuesday, June 4, Union County Fairgrounds, Mount Emily Building, 3604 N 2nd St., La Grande, OR 97850
  • Central Point—Monday, June 17, Jackson County Fairgrounds, Mace Building, 1 Peninger Rd., Central Point, OR 97502
  • Grants Pass—Thursday, June 20, Grants Pass High School, 830 NE 9th St., Grants Pass, OR 97526
  • Klamath Falls—Monday, June 24, Klamath County Event Center, Hall #2, 3531 S 6th St., Klamath Falls, OR 97603
  • The Dalles—Monday, July 1, Oregon Military Department Armory, 402 E. Scenic Dr., The Dalles, OR 97058

Find more information on ODF’s wildfire hazard webpage.

To subscribe to information related to updates on the statewide wildfire hazard map, visit the ODF website.

Background: The 2021 Legislature passed Senate Bill 762 that required the Oregon Department of Forestry to develop and maintain a comprehensive statewide map of wildfire risk that included wildland-urban interface boundaries and five fire risk classes by June 30, 2022, in collaboration with Oregon State University. After the initial version of the map was rescinded August 4, 2022, ODF and OSU began gathering feedback and incorporating it into future mapping efforts. 

The 2023 Legislature passed Senate Bill 80 that made several changes to the map including changing the name from a “risk” map to a “hazard” map, reducing the number of hazard classes from five to three, and changing the appeal and notification requirements. 

Written comment or questions about any aspect of the implementation of Senate Bill 762 and Senate Bill 80 may be submitted by email at any time to ehazardmap@odf.oregon.gov“>odf.wildfirehazardmap@odf.oregon.gov.

Oregon’s Missing Persons

Many times you’ll see postings without case numbers or police contact. There is rarely a nefarious reason why (the nefarious ones are pretty obvious). Usually the loved one tried to call to report their missing person and they are either refused or told to wait a day or two by people who are unaware of SB 351 and the laws that they are bound to when answering the phone. Many people don’t bother calling LE if their loved one is homeless or in transition because they believe LE won’t care. The biggest myth is the 24 hour rule.

In Oregon we don’t have those rules and an officer or person answering the phone is not allowed to decide. The law decides. We have Senate Bill 351 and it states that the police CANNOT refuse a request for any reason and they must begin working on it within 12 hours. The person making the report does not have to be related to missing person either.

Here is SB 351 written by families of the missing here in Oregon in conjunction with Oregon law enforcement officers. This should be common knowledge, please make it this way. https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/…/SB351/Introduced

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