The Curious Case of Coos County - 2021

The Curious Case of Coos County - 2021
Photo by Gary Butterfield / Unsplash

How did SHE get there?

In the previous article of the Curious Case of Coos County we outlined how then County Clerk, Debbie Heller, was stonewalling record requests for the 2020 general election.  When it was revealed that the disk containing the records had been destroyed the Clerk resigned soon after.

There was then a request to fill the position of Clerk with an interim person to cover the position for the 2022 primary election and until a new Clerk could be elected.  That, by itself, is not suspicious.  It was the way they appointed the interim Clerk that was highly curious.

Normally a vacancy is filled by posting a job description on the Coos County website and then fielding candidates until an application deadline.  The candidates have background checks done and references checked.  The Oregon Ethics Committee checks them out as well.

However, in this case, from November 2021 through January 3rd, 2022, two of the three existing Commissioners, Melissa Cribbins and John Sweet, joined together and simply appointed Mrs. Dede Murphy as the Interim County Clerk. Interestingly, they both were seeking reelection in the upcoming Primary Election.

A few of the things that were unusual were...

  • They did not insist that the Coos County Human Resources department fully review other candidates' references for employment, as candidates’ references were not called.
  • They did not recuse themselves from the appointment of the Interim County Clerk.
  • They appointed the Interim County Clerk without prior approval from the Oregon Ethics Committee.
  • They did not consider potential and conspicuous conflicts of interest.
  • They did not allow any public comments or participation in this important appointment.

The Coos County Commissioners privately proselytized and then appointed a highly partisan candidate to oversee their own election. They even asked Mrs. Murphy to resign from her position as Democrat Party Chair for the Coos County Chapter so that she might qualify for the Interim County Clerk position without asking for, and/or receiving, prior approval from the Oregon Ethics Committee.

On March 5th, in Charleston, Oregon, the Interim County Clerk stated on video that “they” asked her to run. The "they" refers to the Commissioners and/or former County Clerk Debbie Heller. Later, Mrs. Murphy’s companion who attended the Listening Session with Mrs. Murphy, confirmed on video that they asked her to run for the position.

On or about March 5th, in Charleston, Oregon, Interim County Clerk publicly expressed her disdain for Republicans while serving as the Coos Interim County Clerk. The Interim County Clerk’s bias and/or prejudice against Republican citizens and her significant past paid political employment in the Democrat party is more than enough to disqualify her for the interim appointment. This appointment process and outcome may conflict with the policies contained in the Coos County Employment Handbook and ORS 260.432.

On or about March 15th, letters were received by Commissioner Bob Main detailing citizen’s complaints regarding the removal of the secrecy envelope from their ballots, and the appointment of politically biased Dede Murphy to the position of Interim County Clerk. By declaration in a public Board of Commissioners meeting Bob Main, County Commissioner, discussed his failure to provide due diligence when he voted for Murphy's appointment without discovering that she had served as the acting Democrat Party Chair.

Things that should make you curious...

  • The Commissioners asked and convinced Mrs. Murphy to run for the position.
  • Mrs. Murphy did not apply for the position the first time it was advertised.
  • At the Commissioners request the timeline to apply for Interim Clerk was extended.
  • The position was reopened, and republished, to allow for Mrs. Murphy’s application for the position to be submitted.
  • The Commissioners appointed her, but the third Commissioner was not advised of the potential conflicts of interest.

These actions are clear violations of trust. The neglect of proper employment practices has significantly eroded Coos County’s citizens’ trust in the ethics of these Commissioners.  This information, and more, is revealed in a lawsuit that was filed in Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, Coos County District, case number 22CV24082.

In closing...

These curious events might have not made much difference if the 2022 primary election had been executed without issues.  It was anything but a clean and transparent election which I will discuss in the next article about the Curious Case of Coos County.