Linn County Commissioner John Lindsey has issued an apology to Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa for an outburst last month before a meeting, but if Lindsey thinks that closes the book on this matter, he's wrong.
Citizens of Linn County need answers as well about this incident. And all of the 25 or so government leaders who witnessed the encounter should be getting apologies from Lindsey as well.
In a story in today's Democrat-Herald, reporter Alex Paul outlines what happened just before the directors of the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (COG) gathered for a meeting on Sept. 20 and explains some of the background that led to the incident.
The background to the encounter dates back to a two-year-long battle Lindsey and some of his neighbors are having with a man named William Templeton. In late 2016, members of Templeton’s family purchased property near Lindsey’s rural neighborhood south of Lebanon and developed a medical marijuana growing operation. Lindsey and some of his neighbors filed a lawsuit in federal court against the owners of the property, as well as Templeton, alleging the operation was actually a commercial marijuana business. That lawsuit still is pending.
In June, Templeton filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, charging that Lindsey broke the law by using his position as a county commissioner to put pressure on the property owners and to illegally gain information from departments within the courthouse. That complaint also is pending.
The specific trigger for Lindsey's Sept. 20 outburst appears to be a series of 120 yard signs that Templeton placed on public and private property around the area. The signs included messages like "Commissioner John Lindsey is Un-ethical" and "Commissioner John Lindsey is a Liar." Lindsey has termed the signs "slanderous" and says that some of them were placed illegally.
Lindsey said he learned about the signs shortly before the Sept. 20 meeting of the Council of Governments board. A little bit later, before the meeting started, he went over to the seated Konopa, stood over her, and launched into his verbal attack, apparently blaming Konopa for encouraging commission candidate Stephanie Newton to run against him in this November's election. As Konopa recalls the incident, a furious Lindsey told her: "Your candidate has done this to me." Lindsey was escorted from the room and did not participate in the meeting.
All indications are that Newton had nothing to do with Templeton's signs. (And, frankly, it doesn't really matter if Konopa had encouraged Newton to run against Lindsey; these conversations about potential electoral matchups are common in political circles.)
At some point, Lindsey physically removed some of the signs, prompting Templeton to file a complaint with the Linn County Sheriff's Office; the complaint has been referred to the Department of Justice.
Lindsey apologized in an email to Konopa, but the apology is lackluster: “I want you to know that I regret the situation prior to the COG meeting on the 20th,” Lindsey said in an email to Konopa. “If I made you feel uncomfortable, I apologize. I usually hold myself to a higher standard.”
But it's not just Lindsey who holds himself to a higher standard. It's the people of Linn County, who expect mature leadership from the commissioners they elect and pay. It's no fun to be the subject of political attacks, but that's part of the landscape; politics can be a bruising business, and not just for office-holders, but you learn how to deal with those. And you learn to be careful about allowing your emotions to damage important relationships with other government officials — relationships that are often essential to getting things done. Lindsey has damaged those relationships. He needs to do whatever he can to repair that damage. And he needs to define for Linn County residents exactly what he means by "a higher standard." (mm)