BAKER CITY — Baker County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Harvey spent several minutes at the end of the board's Wednesday, May 5, meeting addressing a series of rumors involving his actions.
"Thanks to the papers in our local community, I have been the topic of discussion," Harvey said.
He didn't elaborate.
"This is my own statement. It has no reflection on anybody here or staff members in any department," Harvey said.
Among the topics he mentioned:
• That he has intimidated department heads.
"I have not heard this before and it is not true," Harvey said. "If it is true, it's only by a very few and none have come forward personally to visit with me about it."
• That he and his son have a contracting business, and that he has advocated for his son's project at the planning level.
Neither is true, Harvey said. "We both own our own companies," he noted.
Records from the Oregon Secretary of State's office shows that Harvey's son, William Shawn Harvey, owns W. Harvey General Contracting LLC, and Commissioner Harvey owns Bill Harvey Custom Builder Inc.
• That he has meddled in a city project to improve sections of 10th Street.
"For the record, this was my project that I presented to Cliff Bentz as projects requested by him for improvements in Baker County," Harvey said. "This was a county project first and foremost. I then worked with, a year before, with a group of business owners on 10th Street to come to a list of improvements that they would have liked to have seen."
He added he worked with the county roadmaster to fine-tune that list and worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation to include other projects.
Harvey built the Tenth Street Complex offices at 3370 10th St., which includes the Intermountain Law office. The property belongs to Rock Creek Developments LLC, which Harvey and his wife, Lorrie, own.
• That he and Commissioner Bruce Nichols have "hated each other" since high school.
"The truth is I did not go to high school in Baker City but I did work for Safeway 50 years ago and may have worked with Bruce," Harvey said. "I did work with his brother (and) we got along well."
Harvey said he and his wife had hired Nichols, who is a certified public accountant, and they had attended the same church.
"In the past election I used my Facebook page to show my support for his reelection and asked all of my friends to support him and vote for him," Harvey said. "The fact and truth is I do not hate Mr. Nichols. We just disagree on a few issues but I will not hate him for that."
• That he treats county staff "like crap."
"This is completely untrue. I have always been polite and respectful to people I come in contact with," Harvey said. "We may disagree on an issue but I have not treated anybody poorly."
• That he misuses his position for his own personal advantage or to benefit his business.
"This has never happened and it is completely untrue," Harvey said.
Harvey said in the past year he and his wife donated countless hours to help Baker County's Hewitt and Holcomb parks near Richland and other projects at no cost to the county. He said many times they paid their own expenses to take their recreational vehicle to the parks for multiple weekends in a row to help the new staff managing the parks.
"Through my efforts this past year, I have saved the county citizens (money) by either supervising construction projects or doing the work myself," Harvey said. "This has totaled over $33,000 on four projects, which include Bishop Springs repair work, Halfway Road Department rebuilding their shop, repair work at Hewitt-Holcomb parks and the Fourth Street Remodel Project and the East Eagle Bridge replacement project."
Harvey said he had been working nights and weekends so much so he did not have a day off the for half of April, all of May and half of June in 2020, at no additional cost to the county.
"I say all of this not to get praise or enrich myself but to serve the citizens of Baker County like I promised," Harvey said. "I ask that we do everything possible to stop the negativity so we can all get back to doing our jobs. All of this has hurt my family, my friends, my coworkers and the citizens of our county. I'm asking that, please, let's stop this and get back to our jobs and serve the citizens of Baker County."
In September 2020, Baker County District Attorney Greg Baxter filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission outlining Harvey's alleged violations of state ethics laws.
An investigator for the state agency found a "preponderance of evidence" that Harvey tried to use his position to benefit himself, his son and his son's business and that he failed to disclose conflicts of interest last year.
Harvey has denied that he committed any violations.
The Ethics Commission was initially scheduled to review the investigator's report during its April 30 meeting, but Harvey had scheduling conflicts that day, and the discussion was postponed until the commission's June 11 meeting.