EDITORIAL: State senator stumbles in pitch for Malheur County, needs to explain

State Sen. Lynn Findley stubbed his political toe recently and he makes matters worse by pretending he didn’t. For the benefit of Malheur County, he needs to fix his misstep.

As the Enterprise has reported, the senator from Vale stretched the truth recently. He was pitching the case for getting an extra $3 million for the Treasure Valley Reload Center. The “customers” he was selling were legislators on the state Emergency Board.

We’re not sure how the senator got off the rails, but he did.

He told legislators that $3 million would finish the rail project. That wasn’t true.

He told legislators that $9 million was an old figure floated for what was needed, and no longer valid. That wasn’t true.

He told legislators that the Nyssa project would be able to operate with just the extra $3 million. That wasn’t true.

The people of Malheur County still haven’t heard from their senator to explain his conduct.

The statements caught our attention. We’ve reported deeply – and accurately – on the growing mess at the reload center. Findley’s comments on camera before his peers were grating if you knew the facts. And Findley should have known – he had them in his files.

More than a month later, the people of Malheur County still haven’t heard from their senator to explain his conduct.

He wouldn’t answer questions from us. He wouldn’t grant an interview. He finally did call after given advance look at some elements of a story about all this. His main point: He stood by his remarks. Findley told us he received private information about the project that he used in his sales talk to legislators.

That doesn’t seem likely. We asked every director of the development company building the rail center if they would vouch for Findley’s claim. Not one did. We asked the project engineer, who the senator cited as one of his private sources. The engineer, certainly aware he was contradicting a powerful state senator, nonetheless said he has never claimed $3 million would allow onions to ship out of Nyssa.

But the senator made matters appear even darker. He was asked for his records about the reload center. At first, he provided just a couple. Questioned about where were others, including a key budget review, he shipped over more documents in his files. His apparent reluctance is understandable – the document belied key points he made to the Legislature.

Why does it matter? Public officials are, well, prone to exaggeration and maybe stretching the truth. None of us are surprised by a little hyperbole – “the greatest” whatever since sliced bread.

But this is different. The state senator wasn’t speaking for himself. He wasn’t speaking for his buddies on the development company board. No, when he speaks at the Legislature, he speaks on behalf of the 30,000 people of Malheur County. He is our voice in Salem. Or he is supposed to be.

And we’re pretty sure that those Malheur County people would want to be represented as people of character and integrity, as a people whose word you can trust.

In his remarks to legislators and in his ensuing silence, Findley has ducked accountability. He has ducked responsibility to justify his actions – and the community deserves the answers.

In doing so, it’s possible Findley has damaged his stock at the Legislature. The next time he asks for money for our needs, will he be trusted? For a county where every bit of help from Salem is a struggle to get, the erosion of even a little trust won’t help.

Findley has generally served us well. He is engaged, he works hard on legislative business, and he gets around the community. That doesn’t buy him immunity from what he insists on from government leaders he criticizes – accountability. Senator, pull up the suspenders, stare the community straight in the eye, and do the country thing – admit you goofed and ensure it won’t happen again. – LZ