Rogue Valley News, Friday 6/14 – Southern Oregon Joint Task Force Serves Two Local Child Porn Search Warrants, Former ICU Nurse Finally Arrested On Suspicion of Replacing Fentanyl With Tap Water at Asante In Medford & Other Local and Statewide News…

The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Friday,  June 14, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather

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Southern Oregon Joint Task Force Serves Two Local Child Porn Search Warrants

JCSO Cases 24-1658, 24-2249

ROGUE VALLEY, Ore. – The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force served two search warrants yesterday, June 11 in separate residences in Eagle Point and rural Grants Pass. According to the initial investigation, the cases do not appear to be connected. Detectives are interviewing possible witnesses and involved parties, and investigations are ongoing.

SOCET served the first search warrant yesterday just after 7 a.m. at a residence in the 100 block of Keystone Way in Eagle Point. SOCET began the investigation after a suspect sent child exploitation imagery to undercover law enforcement. Eagle Point Police Department assisted with the warrant service.

Investigators served the second search warrant at 1:30 p.m. in a converted school bus on a property in the 6500 block of Rogue River Highway in rural Grants Pass near the town of Rogue River. The investigation began after a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children started the investigation, which led to subpoenas, followed by the search warrant at the residence. Josephine County Parole & Probation assisted with the warrant service.

SOCET was assisted by Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies and detectives, Oregon State Police (OSP), and Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force (SOHTCTF) investigators. During the warrants, investigators seized digital devices which will be forensically examined by SOHTCTF for further evidence of child exploitation.

SOCET is a joint inter-agency task force that started in June of 2020 to combat child exploitation. The task force consists of investigators from JCSO and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as well as prosecutors from our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Jackson and Josephine County. SOHTCTF is a joint inter-agency task force that consists of investigators from JCSO, HSI, OSP, and Medford Police Department. There is no further information available for release.

Former ICU Nurse Finally Arrested On Suspicion of Replacing Fentanyl With Tap Water at Asante In Medford

Dani Marie Schofield, who worked at Asante Rogue Regional Hospital in Oregon, faces 44 counts of second-degree assault, according to police.

A former intensive care unit nurse has been arrested for allegedly swapping patients’ pain medication with tap water, police in Medford, Oregon, announced Thursday.

Dani Mari Schofield faces 44 counts of assault in the second degree, charges that “reflect the total amount of patients that this investigation revealed to have been affected by Schofield’s criminal actions,” the Medford Police Department said in a statement.

Assault in the second-degree charges are filed when an individual “intentionally or knowingly causes serious physical injury to another,” the statement said.

The arrest comes nearly seven months after officials at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, a 378-bed hospital in Medford, contacted police with concerns about a growing number of central line infections among patients. Central lines are tubes put into large veins to administer medication.

“There was concern that Schofield had been diverting patients’ liquid fentanyl for her personal use and then replacing it with tap water, causing serious infections,” Thursday’s police statement said.

Police did not say how many of the patients that Schofield allegedly mistreated had died. In March, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estate of Horace Wilson, an Asante patient who died after he was admitted to the hospital with a lacerated spleen and broken ribs following a fall off a ladder in January 2022.

The lawsuit alleged that while hospitalized, Wilson’s pain medication was replaced with nonsterile tap water, introducing bacteria into his bloodstream that led to his death.

The lawsuit named both Asante and Schofield as defendants, accusing them of negligence. Neither responded to requests for comment at the time.

The allegations of drug diversion — a term that refers to misappropriating prescribed medications, sometimes to abuse or illegally sell them — were first reported by NBC affiliate KOBI-TV in Medford in December 2023. The station said that at least one patient at Asante had died after a nurse allegedly diverted their pain medication.

An attorney for Schofield, who police said left Asante in July 2023, did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Records from the Oregon State Board of Nursing show that Schofield voluntarily agreed in November 2023 to a nursing license suspension, “pending completion of an investigation.”

In an internal memo sent Thursday to Asante employees after police announced Schofield’s arrest, President and CEO Tom Gessel thanked law enforcement for its “tireless work since our team brought concerns forward to them.” (SOURCE)

Providence Hospital Nurses Prepare to Strike Across Oregon 

More than 3,000 nurses in six Providence hospitals could participate in the three-day strike, which is due to start in a week

In a week, thousands of nurses at six Providence hospitals in Oregon will go on a three-day strike that could be the largest in the state’s history. The group intends for the strike to start at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18.

The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents more than 3,000 nurses at the six hospitals, has delivered a 10-day notice to the management at the nonprofit Providence Health & Services, Oregon’s largest hospital group.

It’s unclear how the strike might affect patients. Providence officials plan to bring in substitute nurses during the three days and say they’ll continue to provide comprehensive services.

The strike plans follow simmering tensions between Providence, the largest Portland-area employer and the nurses tied to Oregon’s Safe Staffing Law. The Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Tina Kotek signed it into law in 2023. House Bill 2697 sets a minimum for nurse-to-patient ratios and establishes a process for hospital employees and management to agree upon staffing levels and plans.

Other issues include competitive compensation and affordable health care plans, the nurses union said. The strike is set to unfold at hospitals that stretch from southern Oregon to the Portland region. The six hospitals are: Providence St. Vincent in southwest Portland, Providence Newberg, Providence Willamette Falls in Oregon City, Providence Medford, Providence Hood River and Providence Milwaukie. Nurses at Providence Portland Medical Center in northeast Portland did not join the strike notice.

Providence officials say they have dealt fairly with the nurses. Nurses and leaders with the nurses association said the planned strike is necessary after a four-day mediation last week demonstrated hospital managers aren’t interested in making serious proposals.

“At Providence Medford, we are facing a staffing crisis, and our nurses are overworked, offered low quality health care, and paid less than the current market for nurses in Medford,” Caroline Allison, a registered nurse at Providence Medford, said in a release. “Adding insult to injury, it has now become clear that Providence appears to be systematically trying to undermine Oregon’s Safe Staffing Law. The Safe Staffing Law was intended to solve the nurse workforce shortage crisis and allow us to greatly enhance patient care. Instead, Providence has again made the decision to focus on its bottom lines instead of their workforce, their communities and their patients.” (READ MORE)

 

Community members are invited to enjoy Mount Ashland’s summer season starting on Friday.

No photo description available.

According to the ski area, the restaurant and retail shop inside the lodge will be open every Friday through Sunday from now until Labor Day. Events including movie nights, tie-dye events, and a disc golf tournament will be offered throughout the summer. Mount Ashland is also kicking off a summer program for kids.

Opening this Friday!
Lodge summer hours:
Fridays | 11AM – 5PM
Saturdays – Sundays | 11AM – 7PM
Disc golf, hiking, events, the list goes on. There are tons of things to do at your local mountain playground this summer.☀️ Plus, it’s pretty much always 10-30 degrees cooler up here. 😉

To find out more, visit the Mount Ashland Summer webpage: https://www.mtashland.com/operating-schedule/

 

Southern Oregon Casino Battle Enters Appropriations Process

A long-stalled southern Oregon casino project pitting competing Native American tribes against each other has caught the attention of congressional appropriators, as opponents push for language in the upcoming Interior-Environment spending bill that would bar the project from moving forward.

Oregon’s Coquille Indian Tribe has long sought to build the new casino, an effort opposed by other tribes and a bipartisan army of politicians, including Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, a Democrat; all four senators from Oregon and California; and various members of the Oregon and northern California House delegations.

Representatives of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, based in Oregon, and the Karuk Tribe in northwest California asked House appropriators in hearings last month to include language in the fiscal 2025 bill that would prevent the Coquille casino, currently under review by the Interior Department, and others like it from being built.

Coquille first submitted its application for the project, which would renovate a bowling alley into a gaming facility on a 2.4-acre piece of land in Medford, Ore., in November 2012.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the proposal in 2020 under then-President Donald Trump, a decision the Biden administration reversed in late 2021 when Interior’s Office of Indian Gaming determined that the previous denial had been issued before the environmental review process was completed. A decision is still pending.

Both tribes requesting congressional intervention have casinos on the I-5 corridor, the highway that runs through Medford. Cow Creek owns Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Ore., to the north, and Karuk operates Rain Rock Casino in Yreka, Calif., to the south.

The Coquille tribe points to the 1989 law recognizing the tribe, which lists five counties — including Jackson County, where Medford is located — as part of the tribe’s “service area.” That means members residing in that area can benefit from federal services and benefits to tribes, even if they don’t live specifically within the 1,000 acres considered to be “trust” land, or the primary reservation.

The House’s Interior-Environment appropriations bill is scheduled to be released late this month, ahead of a scheduled June 28 subcommittee markup. House Interior-Environment Appropriations Chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, did not respond to a request for comment on the tribes’ ask.

Meade said Interior should ignore the political pressure that opponents of the project are pushing and should make its decision based on one factor: the law.

“The Department of Interior will make a decision,” she said. “We expect them to make a decision based on the law, not on the political influence that is being packed around by some of our tribes.” (SOURCE)

 

Central Point Police Department says today all people involved in a weekend stabbing death are members of the same family.

Central Point Police Department (CPPD) Lieutenant Josh Abbott says police are interviewing more people today in the death investigation.  He says no names are being released from the case pending criminal charges by the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.

Abbott says Saturday’s incident involves four adults from the same family who all knew each other, including a woman hospitalized in stable condition from blunt force trauma.  He says the suspect for that trauma is different than the stabbing suspect in the case. Abbott says two men were stabbed, killing one man and hospitalizing another in stable condition today.  He says the fourth family member in the case was hurt, though not needing hospitalization.

Abbott says no arrests have occurred in the case, which involved a knife and could have involved alcohol in the 2200 block of New Haven Drive. There is not believed to be any ongoing threat to the community.

Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit and the Oregon State Police Forensic Unit are supporting CPPD detectives with the investigation.

 

Stabbing in Central Point Leaves One Dead and Two In Critical Condition

On 06/08/24, at approximately 04:26am, Central Point Police responded to the 2200 block of New Haven Drive for a reported domestic dispute in which three adults were stabbed and/or assaulted. The victims were transported via Mercy Flights Ambulance to a local hospital. One of the male victims died of their injuries.May be an image of ambulance and text
The other two victims (one male and one female) are being treated for serious/life-threatening injuries.
One adult male is currently in custody. There is not believed to be any ongoing threat to the public.
Members of the Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit responded to assist Central Point detectives with the ongoing investigation. The Oregon State Police Forensic Unit is also assisting.
At this time, we will not be releasing any names or further details.

Elude Suspect Tracked Down and Arrested in Medford After Crashing Car into Central Point Police Patrol Car

MEDFORD, OR. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies arrested a wanted fugitive yesterday around 3:15 p.m at the OK Market in Medford. The suspect, Joshua Edward McLaughlin, 34, of Butte Falls, was wanted on eight warrants, including first-degree burglary, and multiple counts of felony elude. He is lodged in the Jackson County Jail.

Earlier yesterday around 4:30 a.m., McLaughlin eluded law enforcement by intentionally crashing into a Central Point Police Department (CPPD) patrol car. While ramming the police car he also struck a CPPD officer with his side view mirror. The officer is ok, and expected to make a full recovery. CPPD has probable cause to add charges of elude, felony hit and run, reckless driving, three counts of reckless endangering, second-degree criminal mischief, interfering, third-degree assault, attempted third-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and assault on a Peace Officer.

Later that day, JCSO undercover detectives tracked down and tailed the suspect to the OK Market on N. Riverside Avenue in Medford. JCSO Patrol deputies followed McLaughlin into the market and advised he was under arrest. McLaughlin attempted to flee out of the back of the store on foot but was quickly outperformed. McLaughlin resisted arrest but was eventually placed in handcuffs and lodged in the Jail on the eight warrants. McLaughlin is facing new charges from the JCSO arrest.

This case is open and ongoing with deputies and officers continuing their investigation. There is no further information available for release.

 

Grants Pass Police Department — The 2024 Citizen’s Police Academy is Now Accepting Applications!

The Grants Pass Police Department will hold its 3rd annual Citizen’s Police Academy (formerly Citizen’s Public Safety Academy) beginning Tuesday, August 27th, 2024. This 12-week academy is designed to educate the public about the Grants Pass Police Department and to involve citizens in an interactive opportunity to get to know the Officers on a more personal level.May be an image of ‎12 people and ‎text that says '‎Grants Pass CITIZEN'S POLICE ACADEMY لها FOOT អន្ុយ WS0 い‎'‎‎
Only a select group of approximately 25 citizens will be allowed to attend. This is strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. So, don’t miss out—GET YOUR APPLICATION TODAY!
The academy will provide comprehensive instruction on a wide range of topics, including department history, hiring process, community policing, tour of the police department, criminal law, search and seizure, arrest procedures, ethics, Community Service Officers, gang and youth-related issues, patrol procedures, traffic enforcement, firearms, pursuits, high-risk car stops, defensive tactics, crime scene investigations, officer survival, crime prevention, drug and alcohol enforcement, dispatch, K-9, drones, crime scene processing, CERT, technical rescue, auxiliary volunteers, RADE, polygraph, negotiations, and SWAT team response. This in-depth curriculum is designed to equip you with a thorough understanding of our operations.
To apply, please use the attached QR code or the following link: https://www.grantspassoregon.gov/249/Citizens-Police-Academy

 

Shady Cove Homicide Victim Identified and Cause of Death Determined

Next of kin has been notified. The victim in the June 1st homicide in rural Shady Cove is Lowell Driver III, 64, of Trail, Ore. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.
A Jackson County Grand Jury returned an indictment today on charges of second-degree murder for the suspect, Travis Driver, who is the son of the victim.
An Oregon State Police forensic pathologist conducted an autopsy on Tuesday revealing the cause of death as blunt force trauma. There is no further information available for release at this time.
ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:   Sheriff Deputies Arrest Suspect in Rural Shady Cove Homicide 

SHADY COVE, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies responded to a potential homicide call today, June 1st at 11:03 a.m. in rural Shady Cove. ECSO Dispatch received the 911 call for a possible homicide with an armed suspect on scene at a property in the 23000 block of Highway 62 north of Shady Cove. JCSO Deputies arrived with the SWAT Bearcat to locate the armed suspect.

ECSO Dispatch received another 911 call for the potential suspect at the Trail market in Trail, Ore. JCSO deputies responded to the market and took the suspect into custody without incident. The victim’s name will be released pending next-of-kin notification.

JCSO Medical Examiners arrived to the scene of the crime to begin the death investigation. Cause of death is pending the autopsy by an Oregon State Police forensic pathologist. Detectives from JCSO and Central Point Police Department responded to the scene to assume the homicide investigation.

The suspect, Travis Clayton Driver, 34, of Shady Cove, is in custody charged with second-degree murder. He is lodged in the Jackson County Jail.

This case is open and ongoing with detectives continuing their investigation. Jackson County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. There is no further information available for release at this time.

Crater Lake National Park is seeking public input on a draft accessibility self-evaluation and transition plan. Public comment on the plan is being sought through June 14

The National Park Service (NPS) is dedicated to serving all visitors to help them find meaning in the resources of the national park system and its stories. Recently, park staff embarked on a process to ensure that key park experiences are available to all visitors, regardless of race, nationality, socioeconomic status, or ability. Park staff conducted a self-evaluation of the accessibility of park facilities, services, activities, and programs. Based on these findings, staff then drafted a transition plan that identifies opportunities and critical steps for improving accessibility parkwide.

This draft accessibility self-evaluation and transition plan resulted from the work of an interdisciplinary team of NPS staff, including planning, design, and construction professionals; and interpretive, resource, visitor safety, maintenance, and accessibility specialists. The draft plan identifies key visitor experiences at the park and existing barriers to accessing these experiences for people with disabilities.

The plan provides recommendations for removing barriers at priority park areas, including specific actions, example site plans, and anticipated time frames for implementation. It also addresses park policies, practices, communication, and training needs.

The goals of the plan are as follows:

1) Document existing park barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities.
2) Provide an effective approach for upgrading facilities, services, and programs.
3) Instill a culture around creating universal access.

All recommended actions will be subject to funding, consultation with other agencies, consultation with Tribes, and compliance with federal laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Moving forward, the National Park Service will use this plan as a guide to obtain funding and plan and implement projects that will improve accessibility throughout the park.

Your input on the draft plan will help us as we work to ensure that Crater Lake National Park is more accessible to all visitors. To review the draft plan and send online comments, click on “Document List” or “Open for Comment” on the left side of the web page. The plan will be open for comment for 37 days, from May 8, 2024, to June 14, 2024. —- https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=123216

 

State Holding Open House Meetings on Community Wildfire Programs in Central Point and Grants Pass

— A series of six open houses about the state’s new community wildfire risk reduction programs are scheduled June 3 through July 1 across Oregon. These events will offer opportunities to learn about new defensible space and home hardening standards, as well as the draft wildfire hazard map.

Oregon Department of Forestry

The resource-fair style open houses are being held in the communities that have some of the greatest levels of wildfire hazard within the wildland-urban interface. Each open house will begin with a short presentation and introductions, but visitors may stop in at any point during the event to get questions answered about the draft hazard map and associated community wildfire programs.

Representatives from multiple agencies will be present to have one-on-one or small group conversations to help people understand Oregon’s statewide wildfire programs.

  • Oregon Department of Forestry representatives will address questions on administrative rules and hazard zone assessment appeals.
  • Oregon State University representatives will address questions on wildfire hazard science, statewide data sources, and updates to the draft hazard map made over the last two years.
  • Oregon State Fire Marshal representatives will address questions regarding defensible space standards, code adoption process and implementation.
  • Building Codes Division representatives from the Department of Consumer and Business Services will address questions on home hardening construction standards, related code provisions, and implementation.
  • Division of Financial Regulation representatives from the Department of Consumer and Business Services will address questions on home insurance market and requirements of insurers under Senate Bill 82 (2023).
  • Wildfire Programs Advisory Council members will address questions on statewide policy direction for wildfire programs and council business.

Meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Central Point—Monday, June 17, Jackson County Fairgrounds, Mace Building, 1 Peninger Rd., Central Point, OR 97502
  • Grants Pass—Thursday, June 20, Grants Pass High School, 830 NE 9th St., Grants Pass, OR 97526
  • Klamath Falls—Monday, June 24, Klamath County Event Center, Hall #2, 3531 S 6th St., Klamath Falls, OR 97603
  • The Dalles—Monday, July 1, Oregon Military Department Armory, 402 E. Scenic Dr., The Dalles, OR 97058

Find more information on ODF’s wildfire hazard webpage.

To subscribe to information related to updates on the statewide wildfire hazard map, visit the ODF website.

Background: The 2021 Legislature passed Senate Bill 762 that required the Oregon Department of Forestry to develop and maintain a comprehensive statewide map of wildfire risk that included wildland-urban interface boundaries and five fire risk classes by June 30, 2022, in collaboration with Oregon State University. After the initial version of the map was rescinded August 4, 2022, ODF and OSU began gathering feedback and incorporating it into future mapping efforts.

The 2023 Legislature passed Senate Bill 80 that made several changes to the map including changing the name from a “risk” map to a “hazard” map, reducing the number of hazard classes from five to three, and changing the appeal and notification requirements.

Written comment or questions about any aspect of the implementation of Senate Bill 762 and Senate Bill 80 may be submitted by email at any time to ehazardmap@odf.oregon.gov“>odf.wildfirehazardmap@odf.oregon.gov.

 

Child Exploitation Task Force Arrests Eagle Point Man for Victimizing Children Online Nationwide, Investigators Looking for Additional Victims

JCSO Case 22-4129 EAGLE POINT, Ore. – The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force arrested a Medford man on multiple child sex crime charges at 2:28 p.m. today in Eagle Point. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) and Eagle Point Police Department assisted with the arrest at a business near the intersection of Hwy 62 and West Linn Road.

During their investigation, SOCET discovered the suspect was communicating nationwide with at least five underage victims through several social media sites. SOCET investigators identified a 13-year-old victim from Kansas City, Missouri, and are attempting to identify the additional underage victims.

David Grubbs’ Murder Investigation Remains Active

Community still looking for answers in violent 2011 murder of David Grubbs on Ashland, Oregon bike path The Ashland Police Department’s investigation into the murder of David Grubbs on November 19, 2011 remains open and active. Recently two new detectives have been assigned to look into new leads that have come in.

This case remains important to David’s family, the community, and the Ashland Police Department. As detectives continue to pursue these new leads, anyone with additional information is encouraged to reach out to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211. The reward for information leading to an arrest on this case remains at over $21,000.

Fauna Frey, 45, disappeared in Oregon on a road trip, June 29, 2020, following her brother’s death  —

https://original.newsbreak.com/@ada-e-1668135/3304227455096-fauna-frey-45-disappeared-in-oregon-on-a-road-trip-june-29-2020-following-her-brother-s-death

PART 2 – Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040 PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public. READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com.

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

 

Costco Recalls Some Tillamook Cheese Products Sold in Northwest

Costco is recalling some Tillamook cheese products due to the possible presence of plastic materials.

In a letter to Costco members who purchased the recalled product, a Tillamook executive said the cheese may contain “gray and black plastic pieces.”

A 32-ounce twin-pack package of Tillamook Colby Jack and Tillamook Monterey Jack cheese slices, with item number 651195, is among the recalled products, according to the company. The company said that the cheese was available at Costco locations in the Northwest from May 9 through May 31. The best before date for the recalled product is October 22, 2024.

Costco stated the cheese was made for its Northwest region sites, but it did not say which retail locations the recalled goods had been shipped to. Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Montana, and Idaho are states in the Northwest region.

It’s unclear, however, how many products or Costco stores in total the recall impacts. The Tillamook letter noted the recalled cheese was only produced for Costco locations in the Northwest region.

According to the letter, the cheese slices impacted are “in a limited quantity” and the presence of plastic, if consumed without issue, “is very minimal.”

Bever notes that Costco members who still have the product should return the affected cheese slices for a full refund, however.

Keeping Oregon Accountable Summary Report Shows Significant Corrective Action, but Ongoing Control Weaknesses at Federally Funded Programs

In their report, the Oregon secretary of state’s office identified $2.9 billion in accounting errors, which they concluded were unintentional mistakes.

The Oregon secretary of state’s office has published a massive report detailing the audits they conducted on state government programs in 2023, monitoring the billions of dollars in extra tax money gathered by the state over the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the report, titled “Keeping Oregon Accountable,” state auditors identified $2.9 billion in accounting errors, which they concluded were unintentional mistakes, and proposed ways to fix those mistakes.

Auditors also combed through the books of 18 federal programs spread between 11 state agencies, issuing a total of 31 findings and recommendations.

Every year, the Secretary of State Audits Division conducts two major financial audits: the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report and Statewide Single Audit. Auditors also draft and release a report summarizing both of these audits. The summary report for fiscal year 2023, called Keeping Oregon Accountable, was released today.

Last year’s summary report was somewhat of an anomaly, including the first adverse opinion and disclaimer of opinion issued by the Audits Division in more than 20 years. Auditors followed up on the findings that led to the unmodified opinions and found the agency had successfully taken corrective action to address the adverse opinion.

“This year’s Single Audit came with both good and bad news,” said Audits Director Kip Memmott. “I was very pleased to see the substantial corrective action to address last year’s adverse opinion. But there are still serious control weaknesses at other important programs that must be addressed, many of which have been ongoing for 10 or more years.”

The federal government requires audits of the state’s financial statements and compliance with federal program requirements for Oregon to continue receiving federal assistance. In the past, this funding has usually ranged from $11 to $12 billion each year, but federal funding has ballooned since the pandemic, exceeding $20 billion each year since fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2023, Oregon received $20.4 billion in federal aid.

Auditors found serious control weaknesses that, in some cases, have persisted for years. For fiscal year 2023, auditors issued six qualified opinions and a single disclaimer of opinion. No program was given an adverse opinion.

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When an audit shows controls are sufficient and the program is generally in compliance with federal requirements, auditors issue an unmodified or “clean” opinion. Modified opinions — including qualified and disclaimer of — speak to the level of concern auditors have about the quality of internal controls.

A disclaimer of opinion was issued for the Emergency Solutions Grant Program at Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS). A disclaimer of opinion means there was not sufficient, appropriate evidence for auditors to even issue an opinion on program compliance. This program also received a disclaimer of opinion in fiscal year 2022.

Qualified opinions are less severe but indicate that internal controls are still inadequate to prevent or detect significant noncompliance. Auditors issued qualified opinions for six programs at three agencies: OHCS, the Oregon Department of Human Services, and the Oregon Health Authority. Two of these programs — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program — have been issued qualified opinions for several years now.

The federal granting agencies are responsible for following up on audit findings, as they have the authority to enforce grant requirements. Failure to address critical control weaknesses could include punitive consequences, like sanctions or a change in future funding, or it could be an opportunity for the granting agency to clarify its requirements. — Read the full report on the Secretary of State website.

Oregon still fixing state employee payroll system after problems last year

State auditors could not get complete information from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services about the $21 million system

Auditors were unable to completely review Oregon’s new $21 million payroll and human services system that plagued thousands of state workers with inaccurate paychecks in early 2023, records show.

The finding is contained within the Secretary of State’s statewide single audit, released this week, that looks at a variety of state government agencies and programs. The Oregon Department of Administrative Services implemented the payroll system, called Workday, in December 2022 for about 44,000 state government employees after years of planning to replace an older system.

Immediately, thousands of state workers began experiencing problems with their paychecks. Some didn’t receive their full pay and turned  to food banks, credit cards or borrowing money to stay afloat. Others received paper checks instead of direct deposits and had to float bills with credit cards while waiting for checks to clear, and some employees who were overpaid had large sums subtracted from future checks without notice.

In May 2023, Oregon Department of Administrative Services officials said they did not identify any systemic problems with payroll that month but declined at the time to provide the Capital Chronicle with an estimate of how many errors the system had.

Nearly a year later, state auditors said they struggled to get full and complete information from the department, which prevented them from fully assessing the system.

“Given the lack of availability of key system documentation and the department’s inability to provide timely responses to audit requests, we were unable to complete our audit procedures intended to identify and test internal controls,” auditors wrote.

For example, auditors said they received incomplete and outdated records when they requested documentation that would demonstrate the agency’s due diligence when planning a project of this size.

In other instances, auditors said they faced long waits for information such as the number of employees impacted and the total dollar amount of overpayments or underpayments. Those delays also hampered their ability to complete the audit, they wrote.

“The information was not readily available to provide to auditors, indicating a lack of organization expected of a project of this magnitude,” they wrote.

Based on the available data, auditors said the results suggest a lack of adequate testing to flag problems before the rollout. About 4,500 state employees – or roughly 10% of the workforce – were underpaid or overpaid in January 2023, auditors said. In each of the next two pay periods, more than 2,000 state workers were improperly paid.

“The number of employee paychecks impacted, and the variety of underlying causes identified by the department, indicate testing of the configuration was either not sufficiently scoped or not properly conducted,” auditors wrote.

Auditors recommended the state put proper controls in place for payroll processing, take steps to eliminate errors in employee pay and provide and communicate better guidance about the system to agencies.

Agency response

In their response to the audit, Oregon Department of Administrative Services managers said the agency worked with state employees and payroll offices to correct underpayments and recoup overpayments.

“Efforts remain underway, and significant progress has been made to track and resolve the issue,” the agency wrote in its response.

They said the agency plans to fulfill all the audit’s recommendations by Dec. 31.

The agency has refused to provide numbers about the scope of the problem to the Capital Chronicle. Agency spokesperson Andrea Chiapella refused to answer questions about how widespread the payroll issues currently are or detail what remaining work is left to resolve the issues, citing ongoing litigation about the issue.

In January 2023, state employees filed a class-action lawsuit about the payroll system’s problems, which is ongoing. The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, currently is scheduled to go to trial in April 2025.

Last year, the agency declined a public records request from the Capital Chronicle for the estimated number of payroll errors, saying those figures were compiled for litigation.   (SOURCE)

Substance use disorder recovery infrastructure gets $13 million boost from Opioid Settlement Board

OHA will administer allocations recommended by State Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Board (Settlement Board) is directing $13.08 million toward expanding and strengthening the state’s recovery community centers and recovery housing.

The Settlement Board approved an Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission (ADPC) proposal to improve access to recovery community centers and housing by providing $11.75 million to establish centers in counties highly impacted by overdoses, yet with the least access to recovery services, including:

  • $2 million to the Gorge Recovery Center in Wasco County.
  • $2.36 million to the Bay Area First Step Recovery Center in Curry County.
  • $2.39 million to the Painted Horse Recovery Center in Douglas County.
  • $5 million for recovery centers in Josephine and Klamath counties, to be identified by the ADPC Recovery Subcommittee, in collaboration with OHA and relevant partners.

The allocation also includes $500,000 to Oxford House for personnel support, and $830,000 for the expansion of culturally specific and youth services in existing recovery community centers throughout the state.

The funding was awarded to OHA, which will administer the allocations. The Settlement Board’s decision can be viewed in a recording of its June 5 meeting here.

“The Settlement Board is excited to support recovery services across the state,” said Settlement Board Co-Chair Annaliese Dolph. “This investment prioritizes high-need communities lacking access to supports for people in recovery, another step toward an adequate continuum of care in Oregon.”

Prior to awarding any funding, OHA must engage the partners listed in the ADPC proposal and provide a proposed timeline and implementation plan to the Settlement Board for approval no later than Sept. 1, 2024.

Since July 2021, the State of Oregon has reached agreement on national lawsuits against several companies for their role in the opioid crisis. Through these agreements, nearly $600 million will be awarded to Oregon over the course of 18 years. Settlement funds from opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are divided between the State of Oregon (45%) and local jurisdictions (55%).

The state’s share is deposited as it becomes available into the Opioid Settlement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery (OSPTR) Fund. This fund is controlled by the 18-member OSPTR Board.

Local jurisdictions receiving settlement funds (those with populations greater than 10,000) decide how their funds are used. Cities and counties are required to report to the Oregon Department of Justice annually on how they have allocated their funds.

For state and local spending details from Fiscal Year 2022 – 2023, please refer to the Oregon Opioid Settlement Spending Report: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/SUBSTANCEUSE/OPIOIDS/Documents/opioid-settlement-report-fy-22-23.pdf

OSPTR Board allocations to date

Throughout the current fiscal biennium that ends in June 2025, about $91.2 million will be deposited into the OSPTR Fund. Prior to the Recovery allocation, the OSPTR Board made the following allocations:

  • $27.7 million to the nine Federally Recognized Tribes in Oregon – this is equivalent to 30% of all funds anticipated this biennium. This 30% set-aside will continue throughout the life of the fund as additional settlement payments are deposited.
  • $4 million to develop a unified and evidence-based state system for collecting, analyzing and publishing data about the availability and efficacy of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services in Oregon as required by 2022 House Bill 4098.
  • $13.7 million to the Save Lives Oregon Harm Reduction Clearinghouse to distribute naloxone and other life-saving supplies to qualified entities.
  • $13.7 million to build Oregon’s workforce capacity for primary substance use disorder prevention.

The OSPTR Board will next consider additional investments in treatment; research and evaluation; and emerging issues.

To learn more about Oregon’s opioid settlement funds, visit oregon.gov/opioidsettlement.

Getting Ready for U.S. Olympics Track And Field Team Trials at Hayward Field

The U.S. Olympic team trials are just around the corner. At the end of June, hundreds of top athletes will compete for a spot in Paris, but only so many will qualify and it all comes down to what happens at Hayward Field.

 

The trials begin June 21 and conclude June 30 at Hayward Field in Eugene. At least one final race will be held during each evening session.

VIEW SCHEDULE HERE: https://www.usatf.org/events/2024/2024-u-s-olympic-team-trials-%E2%80%94-track-field/schedule

While the track and field trials are a long event, held over eight days, there’s no better place to see Olympic athletes compete than Hayward Field.

Here’s how to get tickets for the competition: https://am.ticketmaster.com/haywardtrackandfield/buy — MORE INFO: https://www.usatf.org/events/2024/2024-u-s-olympic-team-trials-%E2%80%94-track-field

The Oregon Health Athority is rasising awareness for one of the most common forms of financial fraud: Medicare fraud. 

OHA says Medicare loses $60 billion a year to fraud, errors and abuse.

Raising awareness on 6/5 and the week after signifies the 65-yr-old and older population since most people become eligable for Medicare at 65-yrs-old.  To learn more, read the OHA blog here: https://ow.ly/VIRu50Sc7pS

Oregonians Targeted By Text Tolling Scam

A new nationwide texting scam is targeting Oregon drivers now. Ellen Klem, with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office says the phishing scheme started in the midwest earlier in the spring. “I’m honestly not surprised it’s happening now, because now is the time where everyone is gearing up to drive.”

The text claims to be from “Oregon Toll Service” and says the recipient owes an $11.69 outstanding balance; they face a $50 late fee if they don’t click on a link and pay up. Klem says some people may identify the fraud right away, because Oregon doesn’t have tolling, “But, we live next to all these other states that have tolls.” And she worries some will fall for it.

“They are not interested in the $11,” says Klem, “They are interested in much, much more.” She believes the scammers want your personal information, and clicking on the link could allow them to access other data on your phone.

The text has all the markers of a scam, like contact out of the blue from an unknown agency. “There’s a lot of really cheap or free technology out there that allows the scammers to pretend to be somebody they’re not. So, in this case, they’re pretending to be associated with an agency that administers tolls in the state of Oregon. But that doesn’t exist,” says Klem, “Second sign: There’s some sort of emergency. In this case, you have an unpaid bill; that’s frightening to a lot of people.”

She suggests not being in such a rush to respond to every text or email, “These phones, they’re everywhere and we have this sort of automatic response to click on a link or to pick up every phone call. And, I want to remind people just to slow down and think before you click on anything.” Klem adds, “Really, at the end of the day, this is a text message that you can and you should ignore.”

If you get a text, email or phone call you’re not sure is legit, call the Oregon Department of Justice Consumer hotline at 877-877-9392. Volunteer experts are available weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

West Coast’s ShakeAlert System gets Major Upgrade

The ShakeAlert System is available to cell phone users in California, Oregon and Washington.

The U.S. Geological Survey and its partners are announcing a new capability to characterize large earthquakes quickly, helping inform the public about potentially damaging shaking headed their way. In addition to over 1500 seismic sensors that detect ground shaking, the ShakeAlert System now makes use of sensors that detect earth-surface movement via satellite.

“While rare, earthquakes greater than magnitude 7 can have the greatest impact on human lives and infrastructure,” said Robert de Groot, with the USGS ShakeAlert Operations Team. “Future major offshore earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, which could be similar to the 2011 M 9.1 earthquake in Japan, underscore the importance of incorporating satellite data stream into the ShakeAlert System.”

The newly added ShakeAlert capability that uses data from real-time Global Navigation Satellite System sensors may more quickly and accurately determine the magnitude and the area of shaking from very large earthquakes, resulting in faster notifications for people to take a protective action, such as Drop, Cover, and Hold On. GNSS data, which includes the well-known US-based Global Positioning System, are now used in addition to seismic data to detect earthquakes. While seismic sensors measure how quickly the ground is shaking, GNSS sensors measure how far the ground moves up, down, or sideways during an earthquake.

The ShakeAlert System, currently available in California, Oregon, and Washington, can protect people and infrastructure by delivering alerts to cell phones and triggering automatic actions like slowing down trains to prevent derailments, opening firehouse doors so they don’t jam shut, and closing valves to protect water systems.

The ShakeAlert GNSS integration and ongoing operations is a partnership of the USGS, the National Science Foundation funded EarthScope Consortium, university partners with significant contributions from the University of Washington, Central Washington University, UC Berkeley, and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

The ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey in partnership with state agencies and universities and it is a public safety tool for over 50 million residents and visitors in California, Oregon, Washington. When the ShakeAlert seismic sensor buildout is completed at the end of 2025 there will be a network of over 2000 ShakeAlert stations poised to protect residents and visitors in California, Oregon, and Washington.

For more information on how this new capability works, watch this video.   (SOURCE)

Come to the World Beat Festival to Experience Global Cultures: Ukraine is the 2024 Featured Country

Salem Multicultural Institute is excited to celebrate Ukraine as the 27th annual World Beat Festival’s featured country. World Beat is one of Salem’s premier community traditions, offering a vibrant two-day program of international music, dance, song, theater, food, crafts, customs, rituals, and folklore. This year’s festival will begin Friday evening, June 28, and run through Sunday, June 30, at Salem’s Riverfront Park.

Kathleen Fish, Executive Director, emphasizes that this is the only festival of its kind honoring the Salem/Keizer community’s rich tapestry of cultures. “There are 107 languages spoken in our school district. The festival recognizes and explores the cultures of many of these families.”

The festivities kick off Friday, June 28, from 5 to 10 p.m. with “Friday Night at the Beat,” featuring vocal performances and fire dancing on the Main Stage.

The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, with the Children’s Parade. Kids who want to participate in the parade will assemble at the Pavilion at the North End of the park.

Each child who attends will receive a passport at the entrance gate to collect stamps from each World Village. Village tents will feature kid-friendly cultural games and activities. This year’s activities include making cherry blossoms in the Asian Pacific Village, Pysanky (traditional egg decorating) in the European Village, Arpilleras (traditional Chilean textile art) in the Americas Village, and crafting Nguni Shields in the Africa & Middle East Village.

Adults can enjoy beverages in the beer garden while listening to live music. Boating enthusiasts can cheer on their favorite teams during the World Beat Dragon Boat Races.

“We had over 25,000 guests attend last year, enjoying performances on seven stages representing more than 50 different countries and cultures. Our visitors come from all over the Northwest and even Canada,” added Fish.

Organized by the volunteer-driven Salem Multicultural Institute, the festival requires 400 volunteers annually to manage setup, stage operations, and cleanup. Volunteers contributing at least four hours receive an event T-shirt and free entry to the festival.

Admission to the festival is $10/1-day pass/adult or $15 for the weekend. Children 0-14, SNAP card holders, and Veterans are free.

You can view a complete schedule and vendor list or sign up to volunteer atwww.worldbeatfestival.org or call (503) 581-2004.

About the World Beat Festival: The World Beat Festival originated in the late 1990s and was conceived by two young mothers, Mona Hayes and Kathleen Fish, who wanted a space to celebrate cultural heritage. Starting with a small gathering in 1998, the festival has grown into Oregon’s largest multicultural event of its kind. www.WorldBeatFestival.org, 503-581-2004.

About the Salem Multicultural Institute (SMI): The vision of the Salem Multicultural Institute and the purpose of the World Beat Festival and World Beat Gallery are to create an environment of openness for all people. In all our activities, SMI aims to be family-friendly, economically inclusive, and culturally authentic. Visit the gallery located at 390 Liberty ST SE, Salem. www.salemmulticultural.org.

 

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