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UPDATED: Christopher campaign letter fact checked


Thursday, July 23, 2:20 p.m.

This is an updated version of this story, adding two additional points (on I-1639 and shooting on private land).

In recent weeks, Dan Christopher, candidate for Klickitat County Commissioner Position 3, sent out a three-page campaign letter attacking incumbent Commissioner Jim Sizemore for failings in several regards. Its tone was sharply critical and in some instances personally directed.

Given the nature of the claims Christopher made—in at least one instance citing an incident that would constitute a serious felony—The Sentinel undertook a comprehensive fact checking of the claims. Following are the results:

Eminent domain misuse. By far the most serious charge Christopher made against Sizemore is that the commissioner used his office to execute an eminent domain seizure of private property to make some of his friends rich. Eminent domain is a very specific legal action. Review of county records indicates that no eminent domain action has been undertaken by the county in the past 14 years. At a candidates editorial board meeting with The Sentinel Friday night, this issue was raised to Christopher. By the end of the meeting, Christopher acknowledged he had used the term mistakenly and learned the property in question in fact had not been taken. Christopher apologized publicly and to Sizemore for the mistake this past weekend.

Budget not balanced. Christopher claimed in his letter that Sizemore has maintained the county’s budget is and has been balanced for some years, but Christopher disputed that, saying “Mr. Sizemore hasn’t had a balanced budget for many years. He has overspent year after year, draining the counties [sic] reserve funds all but dry.” (An unstated corollary to Christopher’s claim, as with most of them, is commensurate criticism of all three commissioners, since none of them operates with sole authority.) Christopher offered no documentation of this claim beyond saying anyone can look at the figures for themselves and to seemed to base this interpretation on the fall of the county’s reserve fund, which is presently down and standing at about $6 million. At the meeting Friday, Christopher contended that drawing money from the reserve to balance the budget means it isn’t balanced. While the finances of a governmental agency such as the county are complex, state and county sources reached by The Sentinel state that a decrease in reserve fund does not necessarily indicate a budget out of balance. One source concluded Christopher made an assumption based on an incomplete understanding of governmental budgeting procedure. At the meeting Friday, Sizemore was asked directly if drawing money from the reserve meant the budget was not balanced, and he answered no; his response does not, of course, constitute proof of his statement’s veracity but combined with the sources consulted seems to throw the preponderance of evidence in favor of the budget being balanced.

Sizemore wants to prohibit target shooting on private lands. Christopher said Sizemore spoke against a particular citizen shooting on his own land. Records indicate Sizemore was addressing a specific person operating an illegal firing range and was not saying all shooting on private land should be prohibited.

Sizemore supports I-1639. Christopher quoted Sizemore as saying, “We have to try something to stop these school shootings. What else can we do to stop these shootings?” An examination of the minutes indicates Sizemore was exploring options, but in the end the board voted to support Sheriff Bob Songer’s stand against the initiative. Nowhere in any documentation is Sizemore seen as firmly and consistently supporting I-1639.

Goldendale not supported. Christopher says he asked Sizemore why he has not supported Economic Development or job growth for Goldendale and that Sizemore responded, “Goldendale is fine the way it is.” Christopher adds that Sizemore has voted more for resources in Districts 1 and 2 than for Goldendale and that Sizemore made disparaging remarks about Goldendale students in favor of White Salmon schools and further refused to reduce fees for a Goldendale Christian youth group. A source tells The Sentinel Sizemore’s quote was taken out of context and did not refer to Economic Development for the city. A review of county expenditures shows the county appropriated the same funds—$1,500—to both Goldendale and White Salmon schools; Christopher claimed the expenditures came about despite Sizemore’s objections, though the minutes of the meeting do not prove that. The reference to a Christian youth group is to the Goldendale Rodeo Bible Camp; commissioners’ meeting minutes show “Commissioner Sizemore discussed a citizen’s suggestion to waive the Goldendale Rodeo Bible Camp’s already reduced Fairgrounds rental fee for 2019, inquiring if any further reduction in-kind services could be provided to offset the remainder of fees. Director Kelsey stated he will look into it.” Possibly Christopher took Sizemore’s discussion to mean an objection, though the statement does not in and of itself prove that.

Sizemore plans to place an Indian resettlement village near Highway 97 and Hoctor Road. It’s unclear exactly where Christopher means, but indications are that possible locations could refer to lands already owned by the Rock Creek Band of the Yakama Nation. Christopher cites no specific documentation for this claim—nor for any other—so a specific check cannot be completed.

Sizemore verbally objects to citizens exercising their constitutional rights. There is no indication of this in reviewed minutes of commissioners’ meetings. A source indicates Sizemore may have made a comment in conversation about people who push back against any governmental direction on purely constitutional grounds but that it did not indicate a blanket viewpoint by Sizemore against the exercise of constitutional rights.

Sizemore tried to press for accepting refugees. Christopher said Sizemore wanted to accept Gov. Jay Inslee’s request for the county to participate in refugee resettlement, suggesting Sizemore was ready to let in any and all refugees. A review of county records indicates the county responded to the governor by saying it was not willing to accept refugees without known employment opportunities and available housing. It stated it would accept refugees on a case-by-case basis.


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