Statement Regarding Recent Board Election
November 16, 2016 – On November 8, 2016, an election was held to fill the Director position for Subdivision 1 of the Columbia River PUD (CRPUD) Board of Directors. The candidates were Debbie Reed and Nancy Ward. Ms. Ward won the election with 62 percent of the votes.
Prior to the election, Columbia County issued a news release indicating that despite her name appearing on ballots, Ms. Ward may not be eligible to be a Director even if she won the election. That news release is attached.
As an independent public body, CRPUD retains unique control and authority over its elections. However, because it would be impractical for CRPUD to issue ballots and administer its own election, CRPUD delegates part of the election process to county elections officials. After a county issues ballots and tallies the votes, the procedure that the Oregon Legislature has set forth is that the county notifies CRPUD regarding its tabulation of the votes, and the CRPUD Board of Directors then certifies the results of the election and reports the results back to the county, who then certifies the election. By statute, the Board in its report to the county must take a position on whether any person who wins an election is legally qualified for the position.
Board Policy 1-12 directed General Counsel to determine whether each candidate who ran for election was legally qualified for the position. The policy further directed General Counsel to report the results of the investigation at the November Board meeting.
At the November 15, 2016, Board meeting, General Counsel advised the Board that Ms. Ward is not legally qualified for the Subdivision 1 position under the laws that govern the CRPUD, and that she will not be able to lawfully be seated as a Director as a result of this election.
Qualifications for membership on the CRPUD Board are described in the Oregon Constitution and Oregon Revised Statutes. Under our state constitution, a Board member must be a resident of the District; and under ORS Chapter 261, the member must be an elector, must reside in the subdivision that the member was elected to represent, and must have resided in the District continuously for two years immediately preceding the election.
Based on the residency location of Ms. Ward, which is a floating home in the Multnomah Channel outside the political boundary that was created in 1999, General Counsel has determined that Ms. Ward is not presently a resident of the District, nor is she presently an elector or resident of Subdivision 1. In addition, she did not reside in the District for two years prior to November 8. For these reasons, Ms. Ward is not legally qualified to be the Director for Subdivision 1.
Board President Jake Carter is committed to leading the Board in taking appropriate actions in an effort to resolve this issue for future elections.
“If I could create the laws that govern eligibility for membership on our Board, I would create a system in which any individual who receives power from CRPUD would be eligible to represent ratepayers on the Board,” Carter said today. “Unfortunately, CRPUD does not create the law, and we are bound by the laws and political boundaries of the District that exist today.”
“Annexation may or may not be an option,” said Carter. “General Counsel is evaluating the feasibility under our existing legal system of initiating annexation of areas that receive power from CRPUD but are not currently within its political boundary.”
In the meantime, due to the vacancy that is expected to exist beginning January 2, 2017, Carter anticipates that the Board will fulfill its legal obligation and appoint a successor for the Subdivision 1 Director position.
“The Board will receive the official county elections abstracts soon, and the Board will then have to make a decision at our December meeting,” Carter said. “I anticipate that at that time, the Board will declare that the position will be vacant beginning in January, and that a successor will have to be appointed.”
Under Oregon law, the Board is tasked with appointing a successor when a vacancy occurs.
“My understanding is that the last time this happened, in 2000, the Board announced the vacancy and accepted applications from interested and eligible individuals,” said Carter. “I expect that the Board will follow the same process when it meets next month.”
The December Board meeting is scheduled for December 20, 2016.
- See the Columbia County Clerk’s News Release on the Columbia River PUD Subdivision 1 Director’s Race.
- See the letter from the Columbia County Elections Department to Nancy Ward from October 17, 2016.
- See Columbia County Order Number 72-99.
- See Columbia County Proclamation and Order Number 82-99
- See the PUD’s letter to voters in Subdivision 1, dated November 18, 2016.