Wallowa County Commissioners have reached a settlement with David Hurley, owner of Eagle Cap Chalets at Wallowa Lake. Hurley had filed two suits against the commissioners in August as a result of Commissioner Todd Nash’s efforts to place a proposal to expand the county’s transient lodging tax on the November ballot.
Nash had hoped to help fund improvements at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds and additional staff for Wallowa County Sheriff through by raising the tax levy in unincorporated areas.
Hurley’s first suit challenged the ballot title for the proposed tax on several grounds, including the fact that the measure for the proposed tax was not filed at all. The second suit alleged more than 17 violations of Public Meetings Law in the process by which the public was informed of the bid to put the measure on the ballot.
In answer to the first suit, Commissioners backed away from filing the ballot measure at a Sept. 5 special sessions.
Commissioners then moved to settle the second suit, the violation of Public Meetings Law, before it went to trial. On Sept. 28, commissioners reached a settlement agreement with Hurley and Judge Tom Powers dismissed that case.
Commissioners paid Hurley’s legal fees for the two action in the amount of $5,855 and assured Hurley they are working to establish a process to ensure they are scrupulous in their compliance with Oregon’s Public Meetings law going forward.
Nash contended that his plan was similar to approaches taken in other counties. There proved to be a significant difference between those counties and Wallowa County.
Other counties that make use of lodging tax for their fairgrounds have facilities that are significantly larger than Wallowa County’s, often bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars from tourist-supported events each year, and support a paid staff.
In 2018, the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association challenged the Bend over the expenditure of lodging tax dollars for road improvements. ORLA won that case.