Recall petitions have been filed against three Klamath Irrigation District board members.
The petitions were filed at the KID office Monday.
KID irrigators Ed Bair, Jason Chapman and Ross Fleming are acting as the lead petitioners to recall KID board chairman Brent Cheyne, vice chairman Grant Knoll and board member Ken Smith, according to a news release.
“If we allow some things to continue down the path they are going, we feel our water supply could be in jeopardy in the future,” said Bair, who filed the recall petition against Smith. “With heavy heart, we are going down this path because we feel it’s the only path we have available to us.”
The effort also launched a website, kidrecall.org.
Cheyne, Knoll and Smith did not respond to requests for comment.
Unhappy with results
KID is the second largest irrigation district in the Klamath Project, and delivers water to nearly 42,000 cropland acres.
The district is made up of five irrigation zones; each is represented by an elected official who serves a three-year term on the KID board. Smith represents zone one. Cheyne represents zone two, and Knoll represents zone three.
“In all five districts there are a lot of patrons who have been unhappy with the way the board meetings have been going,” said Chapman, who filed the recall petition against Knoll.
According to the release, the petitioners are concerned with escalating legal fees paid to two out-of-town attorneys, the departure of several longtime district employees, and decision-making they allege is not being conducted in a public forum, as is required by Oregon public meetings laws that govern the district.
The recalls were initiated “for dereliction of duty, breach of fiduciary responsibility and violation of public trust,” documents said.
The cause for filing the complaints is listed as “questionable decision-making and poor performance” that has compromised KID’s ability to perform its duties; actions inconsistent with patron votes regarding the C flume, and increasing the scope of work and costs associated with New York attorney Lawrence Kogan.
The petitioners believe the actions of Cheyne, Knoll and Smith have drained KID’s finances and have created anxiety and animosity within the district, the release said.
Chapman said he doesn’t feel like Cheyne, Knoll and Smith are receptive to irrigators’ concerns.
“If you’re going to air anything out, it should be done in a public meeting and they refuse to answer multiple questions we’ve had,” Chapman said.
The petitioners have 100 days to gather enough signatures to hold a recall election. According to Bair, petitions for zone one and zone two will require more than 40 authenticated signatures.
“Maybe a few less for zone three,” Bair said.
Once the signatures are authenticated, a recall election must occur within 35 days.
If the recall efforts are successful and the board members are relieved of their duties, members to temporarily fill the vacant seats will be appointed.
Bair said he hopes the seats will be filled with individuals who are more cooperative and more open about decision-making processes.
“We are basically looking for a board that is willing to work with the other districts in the Project; willing to work with the agencies we have to deal with — like the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife — willing to work with patrons, and to put the agenda of what’s good for KID above their personal political agendas,” Bair said.
Chapman called the potential seat appointments “a crapshoot.”
“Anytime you put two to three new board members on board, you don’t know who you are going to get. But at this point, we know we are not happy with who we’ve got,” Chapman said.
Fleming, who filed the recall petition against Cheyne, agreed.
“This is the first year we’ve had full (water) supply in quite a few years, and our job should be out there trying to apply it to the best of our ability, but then we’re back in here,” Fleming said, motioning to the KID office. “I don’t think it can get much worse than it is now.”
The three men who filed the petitions are all former KID board members. None of them want to rejoin the board, they said.