Grand jury inquiry costs mount

The costs of a grand jury inquiry into the release of Deschutes County district attorney’s records are mounting as the investigation enters its third week.

County officials are preparing to hire an outside attorney to advise them on the investigation because they believe their legal department is the target of the grand jury. Meanwhile, county staff spent 87 hours gathering records they were ordered to provide to the grand jury last week, according to information the county released Tuesday.

Continue reading the story here.

DA subpoenas 3 county employees

In what legal experts call an unusual move, the Deschutes County district attorney subpoenaed at least three county employees to appear Monday before a grand jury.

District Attorney Patrick Flaherty ordered employees, including the county attorney and the information technology director, to bring to the grand jury information related to public records requests.

Flaherty’s decision to go to a grand jury came after a request by The Bulletin last week to see the applications of recently hired employees in the District Attorney’s Office. Some applications contain employees’ driver’s license numbers. The county did not redact the numbers, but later e-mailed The Bulletin to say the numbers are considered “personal information” under state law. On Thursday, Flaherty wrote a letter to The Bulletin in which he accused county employees of breaking the law by releasing the applications.

Read the rest of my story here.

Schooling for young offenders: another budget casualty?

Behind a series of locked doors at Deschutes County’s Juvenile Detention Center, inside the cell units where the 12- to 17-year-olds live, school runs year-round.

Each unit, or “pod,” has its own classroom where kids who have committed misdemeanor crimes such as theft, sex abuse and unauthorized use of a vehicle go to school.

For many kids, this is their last chance to get an education and reintegrate into society.

But proposed state budget cuts could mean two months without school for these young offenders, making their schooling another casualty of the state’s budget crisis. Gov. John Kitzhaber and state lawmakers are attempting to close Oregon’s projected $3.5 billion shortfall.

Read the rest of my story here, or on The Bulletin’s website.

Business group proposes drone testing in C. Oregon

Aerial drones could begin flying test runs over remote areas of Central Oregon in the near future, if a proposal to open a military operations area to the testing gets federal approval.

The unmanned aircraft are currently prohibited from flying in general airspace, and testing is usually allowed only in restricted military airspace, unless companies obtain special certificates.

That puts testing spots in high demand, and the opening of a new area could boost Central Oregon’s economy, according to the nonprofit Economic Development for Central Oregon, which proposed the idea.

Read the AP version on OPB’s website here (originally posted at

Settlers route recognized by National Register of Historic Places

People camp at Fish Lake

The passage of time and creeping vegetation have narrowed to a single track some portions of the historic Santiam Wagon Road, which opened Central Oregon to settlers from the West in 1866.

Yet grave markers alongside the road, and stories told by history buffs, serve as reminders of the challenging conditions that Oregon pioneers faced in the state’s early days.

On Tuesday, the State Historic Preservation Office announced the federal government had recognized the wagon road’s historical value by adding part of the trail to the National Register of Historic Places in late September. Read the rest of my story here.

Bend mental health homes generate 911 calls, but no crimes, police say

One of the chief concerns of neighbors near two planned mental health residential treatment homes in Bend is safety. The three existing mental health treatment homes in Bend, though not the same type as the new homes, have generated many calls to 911, according to records obtained by The Bulletin, but no crimes in the five years of records reviewed.

Yet the company scheduled to open two more treatment homes in Bend next month, Telecare, had to close a Roseberg facility over the summer because it could not recruit enough staff, and it faces a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Read the rest of my story here.

Deschutes amends its resort plan to benefit of Aspen Lakes

A last-minute amendment by the Deschutes County Commission Monday could protect a Sisters-area family’s resort development plans, but it is drawing criticism from some nearby residents.

The Cyruses stood to lose any chance of converting their existing Aspen Lakes golf course and subdivision into a destination resort if the County Commission approved ordinances to remove subdivisions from the county’s resort zone map as originally proposed. Land must be on the map in order for the owners to apply for a resort, and the county is in the midst of updating its resort zone map to remove lands ineligible for resorts.

Instead, the County Commission voted unanimously Monday to amend one of the ordinances with an exception the commissioners said was intended to help the Cyrus family’s plans. Read the rest of my story here.

California congressman, investors buying up Bend

Palmer’s Motel & Cafe in northeast Bend serves up home-style breakfasts, advertises monthly rental rates — and doubles as a California congressman’s base of operations for buying up several of Bend’s partially built subdivisions.

Since last summer, the motel has been listed as the business address for Long Term Bend Investors LLC, a company backed by U.S. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., and prominent California home- builder Harry Crowell.

Some of Miller’s land deals in southern California have raised questions and drawn the attention of federal investigators. Read the rest of my story here.

911 director fired, even as handling of situation is criticized

Deschutes County 911 officials voted to fire the dispatch center’s director Tuesday, but several used the occasion to raise concerns about the process leading to the vote.

Officials said their decision was based on 911 Director Becky McDonald allegedly lying to them about her romantic relationship with a 911 dispatcher’s husband and that she could no longer lead the district. See my story here.

Critics decry path to possible resort

A recent vote by the Deschutes County Planning Commission could help Commissioner Keith Cyrus finally turn his subdivision into a resort, an action that is raising questions about whether Cyrus is using his position to advocate for his family’s development interests. See my story here.