By Tom Huxley
This forum is in response to the Curry Coastal Pilot article Oct. 20 “Commissioner overspends travel budget again” and your Aug. 11 Editorial “Easing up on letters policy.”
You were previously and once again commended for now requiring those submitting letters or forums to provide sources/facts supporting their statements and effectively raising the accuracy bar for those submittals. The same does not yet appear to be the case for Pilot staff writers as reflected in the Oct. 20 article.
For example: The article reports Commissioner Boice saying “He said he has paid $37,000 out of his own pocket — including his voluntary pay cut of about $20,000 and meals he doesn’t charge the county — and is hesitant to pay any more because he fears he won’t be reimbursed.” Let’s first look at the $20,000 “voluntary pay cut.”
The pay cut was anything but voluntary.
• May 19, 2017 budget meeting: Commissioner Gold to Boice: “I believe Mr. Boice promised that if a county manager was hired he would take $20,000 less, correct?”
• Boice: “You made that point. Thank you. Yes. That is correct. I’ll take the $20,000 cut but beyond that I’m going to prepare for battle because I think it is absolutely punitive or at least gives the appearance and I’m trying to convince my wife that I may have to stay with my commitment…” ($66,000 reduced to $46,000)
• August 2, 2017 Board of Commissioner (BOC) meeting – Boice backtracking: “So, my salary cut that I took during our budget information. I’m gonna ah do that for one year… I’m gonna repeat that that was a one-year thing and I don’t know about after that.”
• May 17, 2018 budget meeting – Boice to budget committee: “So, the $66,000 on the, the pay I’m gonna direct... ah… Ms. Kallstrom (county accountant) to... ah... reinstate that effective July 1. And… ah, ah..., it’s not negotiable for me. I’m gonna ask her by Monday to come up with how we can balance that out and how that would be that $20,000 shouldn’t be that difficult of a program.”
Now, for the remaining huge amount of “county travel related” money ($17,000) Boice alleges to have paid out of his own pocket. This statement was not supported with one shred of evidence. Not one receipt; nothing. As preposterous as a claim of $17,000 appears, the staff reporter apparently printed what was said to them without question.
Boice succinctly and defiantly conveyed his position and complete disregard for the existing county travel policy rules and, the general law county government structure in Oregon on May 17 when he addressed the budget committee: “So, what I’ve done is, I’ve taken the key to the Traverse, which is our best car and... ah..., I’m gonna decide when that car is gonna be used and I’m gonna make sure it’s only for county business.”
Boice then added: “I will continue to keep good receipts and if that, you know, my concern is much more so the people that elected me then being subordinate to this board and having my efforts questioned and even criticized and it just, it just makes my head spin.”
Reading news articles reporting unreimbursed expenses of $17,000 for one commissioner over a period of about 18 months without any supporting documentation is absurd and would make anyone’s head spin.
Thomas Huxley is a Curry County commissioner.