The Klamath Irrigation District has asked a state ethics commission to look into action taken by Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams regarding irrigation and Klamath County adjudication.
“We thought it needed to be aired out,” said Mark Stuntebeck, KID manager. “We felt it was inappropriate — his actions were inappropriate.”
Mallams also said he wanted to clear the air, calling the claims made by KID a “false claim.”
“I want the public to know my feeling is this is a vain attempt to try to resurrect a failing recall effort,” Mallams said. “I think that’s what this is all about.”
He referenced a recall petition headed by Shannon Roberts, who has no affiliation with KID. On July 9 Roberts filed petitions against Mallams and fellow commissioner Jim Bellet. The petitions must have 3,474 signatures by Oct. 7 to proceed.
When asked what KID hoped would be the end result of the ethics complaint, Stuntebeck said he did not know.
“I’m not sure we had any expectations for results,” he said.
The ethics commission has not made a ruling on whether it will proceed with the complaint. It has requested further information from KID, which Stuntebeck said KID provided.
This is the first year water adjudication law has been enforced in Klamath County. In June the Klamath Tribes and Klamath Project irrigators, including KID, made calls for water.
Mallams was one of the Upper Basin Contestants who applied to have water adjudication shutoffs of upper basin irrigators delayed by the local court earlier this summer, officially called asking for a stay of enforcement. Klamath County Circuit Judge Cameron Wogan denied the requests.
During deliberations in the courtroom, the commissioners sent a proclamation urging action on the adjudication issues, saying “the Circuit Court of Klamath County has the ability to move in a direction to help all entities stay somewhat whole for the near future and wait until agreements are made that everyone looks forward to.”
All three commissioners signed the proclamation.
“He (Mallams) was one of the parties named in the petitions for stay. Basically our board felt it was inappropriate,” Stuntebeck said. “It seemed like it was kind of a rush deal. They walked in during the hearing and handed the proclamation to the judge. Our feeling was they were attempting to sway the outcome of the judge’s ruling and we felt that was inappropriate.”
In the letter to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, KID board president David Cacka alleges that action could have violated ethics rules.
“We object to Mr. Mallams using his position as a public officer and using public funds and facilities to advocate a position for his personal benefit, i.e., requesting that the court stay the enforcement of our water rights and those of The Klamath Tribes so that he can irrigate his land,” the KID letter said.
Mallams has rights to take water from the Sycan River, but he said the bulk of his irrigation this year is done by pumping water from a well. Even though he received a notice from the Oregon Water Resources Department to shut off the use of river water, he said it hasn’t impacted his ability to irrigate. Mallams is irrigating with well water.
Because he was not using his in-stream water for the bulk of his irrigation, Mallams argued he would not have benefited from the stay hearings.
“There is no economic benefit to be gained by doing this,” he said of joining the Upper Basin Contestants in the water hearings. “I did not have to follow through with petition for stay. I wanted to unite with all my irrigators in the Upper Basin and go this route to keep going forward with that.”
Stuntebeck said whether Mallams was using his water right or not does not matter.
“This has more to do with the matter of law and the adjudication,” he said. “What they (the commissioners) were asking for is to not enforce the water rights that were determined in the final order of determination early this year.”