A former Josephine County Commissioner, who voted to approve a mining project for Commissioner John West in 2015 and helped West win again in 2017, is now being recommended for a job by West even though his resume is light on expertise in that field. At the Commissioners’ Dec. 14 Administration Workshop West recommended Illinois Valley resident Simon Hare for Broadband Project Manager, to replace the retiring John McCafferty, who currently holds that position.
The first question, asked by Commissioner Dan DeYoung was, “Does he have any qualifications for that?”
West, said the current Project Manager, John McCafferty, told him Hare doesn’t need IT experience. West said, “He agrees Simon brings local knowledge, the people and the ability of dealing with contracts because he’s been in the government, in the county specifically, for eight years and that he believes with us that he would be an asset because he knows a lot of those community members.” Hare was elected to the Commission in 2010 and served until 2018. He declined to run again after a series of personal controversies.
DeYoung said he wondered if there’s anybody else out there who might like the job, like a retired “broadband guy who does have experience.”
Finance Director Sandy Novak told DeYoung, “The subject matter experts that we have in the community have already been involved.”
Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger asked West if Hare has agreed to take the position. West didn’t answer that question specifically but said “He has been attending our meetings and not getting paid. He’s been attending them and we feel like it’s not the technology part of it, we have all these broadband experts. That person is guiding the ship, coordinator, to make sure that those people in those outlying areas get the broadband.” West didn’t say what meetings Hare has been attending, but there is a Broadband Action Team, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), working to extend service to rural areas.
West, in his typical word salad way of talking, said Hare’s familiarity with the county is an asset. “If we brought in somebody that doesn’t know our area or isn’t familiar with our area like Simon is, so we just think that it’s a good fit because it’s local.”
Baertschiger told West to bring his selection to a meeting. West said he consulted Legal and learned the temporary position was “under the threshold” of needing a vote or board order to hire Hare. West was told to bring it to a meeting anyway “so we notice it,” said Baertschiger.
DeYoung said he’d rather the matter be brought to the board after the holidays because “I’d like to talk to Simon Hare about it.” DeYoung was on the Board of Commissioners during Hare’s last term. At the time, DeYoung said, “he’s probably the smartest person I know when it comes to government.”
Baertschiger said he wants the Hare deal to be noticed, “because Simon is a political figure so we can get public input.” He added, “probably not, but just in case.”
Hare is, indeed, a political figure in Josephine County. In 2010 Hare won election to the Board, defeating incumbent Dave Toler. In 2014 Hare won a second term to the Board of Commissioners, despite being targeted by a write-in candidate, Toni Webb, for voting yes on a controversial gravel mine in Sunny Valley. In January of 2015 Hare also voted in favor of a plan by now Commissioner West to reprocess old mining tailings on Dog Creek Road, about two miles west of Sunny Valley. West, of Brimstone Natural Resources, with partner Robert Stumbo, asked the Board to approve his venture as a “reclamation” project. According to Steve Rouse of Rogue Advocates, calling it a reclamation project instead of a mining project was an attempt to avoid land use safeguards to protect other resources and impacts on neighbors. The Board agreed and rejected West’s project.
After West altered his application to say it was a mining project, which requires stricter regulations, it was subsequently approved by Hare and then Commissioner Keith Heck, while then Chair Cherryl Walker didn’t vote, saying she had not been present during the first hearing. Even though West’s mining project would involve a rock crusher, impact neighbors, increase heavy truck traffic, and potentially harm waterways with runoff, the project did not generate as much controversy as the Sunny Valley Sand and Gravel application did, since it was thought of as cleaning up an old mine site and not as an extraction project. Since then, Brimstone has been cited by Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) for failure to submit a plan before removing a stream crossing, then replacing it with a sub-standard culvert. West filed lawsuits against ODF which are on-going.
In 2017, while Hare was still on the Board, West appeared again with a land use issue. Brimstone Natural Resource’s application for a Riparian Corridor Site Plan Review had been approved by the Planning Commission with 21 conditions for approval. On appeal to the Board, Commissioners ruled that West didn’t need permission from the county to mine for gold on property in the Sunny Valley area. This outraged residents in the area at the time who said they were denied the ability to participate in the public land-use hearing process because the board members made their decision in a private session.
Hare’s personal issues were also of increasing concern during his time as a Commissioner. An editorial of Nov. 6, 2014, in the Grants Pass Daily Courier pointed out that Hare only won his second term by 46 percent of the vote, so 54 percent of county voters did not want to see him re-elected after a couple of incidents people called unbecoming to a county official.
In May of 2013 Hare reported to police that his Jeep Grand Cherokee had been stolen from downtown Grants Pass. Police eventually concluded it was a false report after the Jeep was found a few miles from his house. Hare was reportedly taken home from a bar after his friends decided he was too drunk to drive. Hare was not charged with a crime, however, after the Oregon Department of Justice reviewed reports and decided there was not enough evidence to warrant charging him with filing a false police report.
December 5, 2014, Hare picked up a cell phone left on a table at the Cedarwood Saloon on Redwood Avenue in Grants Pass and used it to send texts that said “Dude ur so hot” and “God I gotta get in your pants” to a then 18-year-old and her 21-year-old cousin. The phone he used turned out to belong to the mother of the 18-year-old. The father of the 18-year-old was livid and demanded an apology. Hare said at the time he thought it was someone else’s phone and the texts were meant as a joke. Witnesses said Hare was very intoxicated that night at the Saloon but Hare disputed that. Nevertheless, he made a public apology in the Courier, saying it was a “prank gone wrong.”
Hare’s apology wasn’t enough for some in the community however, and a movement calling for his resignation began. Right around Christmas a small group gathered on the Courthouse steps to launder all their gripes about Hare, which included behavior not becoming to an elected official, losing the trust needed to lead the people, voting yes on the controversial gravel mine in Sunny Valley and squandering the county’s money.
Hare managed to float through the criticism then, but a year later he was arrested for DUII and reckless driving in Eugene. According to police reports, Hare was pulling out of the driveway of a strip club in a Toyota Tundra when he nearly crashed into a police officer’s patrol car. Hare was pulled over and taken to jail after refusing a breathalyzer test. While in jail, Hare missed an O&C meeting he was supposed to attend in Eugene. Meanwhile, he was still voted in as vice-president of the O&C Board.
Hare later released a statement that said: “I recognize the use of alcohol causes me to make poor decisions. I am therefore entering an outpatient treatment/diversion program for the better part of a year.” He added that the “incident” wouldn’t impact his ability to perform his duties as a Commissioner. A Courier editorial of December 17, 2015, called for his resignation. Three incidents and Hare’s uncommon “hubris” concerning them were evidence he won’t learn from his mistakes, the editorial said.
Hare continued to evoke criticism, even after he said he went through rehabilitation. Several letters to the Courier editor complaining about his personal tribulations as well as his decision to allow a polluting gravel mining operation in Sunny Valley continued through his term, at the end of which, Hare announced he would not run again. In his exit interview in December of 2018, Hare was vague about his future but said, “I have a PH.D in running a county.” Hare was the youngest commissioner in the state when he was elected to the Josephine County Board at age 32. Before that, he earned a bachelor’s degree in agri-business, helped manage the family ranch in the Illinois Valley and was a legislative advisor for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, according to his exit interview in the Courier. Hare agreed with the incumbent he defeated, Dave Toler, that the job of commissioner is 80 to 90 percent administrative, with lawmaking a relatively minor part of the work. Hare said the highlight of his time of the Board was the hiring of a good team of managers. Many of those managers subsequently left during Baertschiger’s reign on the Commission.