Letter unfairly painted County Commissioner candidate Branch

One of the first things to suffer in contested elections, are the facts. A letter writer recently implied criminal behavior, taking aim at a County Commissioner candidate regarding a federal grant.

Web-Editorial-Gary-MugThis was aimed directly at Chris Branch – the letter writer used articles and an editorial in this newspaper as the source for her accusations. She used words like “illegal” and “fraud” to summarize her interpretation of what she read. Her letter cited an EDA Grant article and proceeds to address later articles as well. Going back over our articles in the Aug. 25 and Sept. 22 issues they do not come close to her interpretation and neither does my editorial.

She says it was not an upgrade, but a brand new road and suggests Branch wrote grant language to that effect. The word “upgrade” was only used in the headline in the Sept. 25 article – everything else speaks to changes, realignment, etc. She says the article “repeatedly” suggests that without the road the city would lose 136 existing jobs and 20 new jobs would not be created. She writes, “Chris Branch’s grant language must suggest that Reman and Reload would close down and move away…” That’s conjecture on her part. The Sept. 22 article clearly uses the numbers as estimates of job retention with no mention of the company going away. It says, “according to grantee estimates….” I can’t find that used again in any article or editorial in this newspaper. She goes on about “Another erroneous suggestion in this grant regarding Heavy Haul roads….” Of course, any section of road replaced for railroad access should meet the heavy haul standard… short or long.

After all that conjecture she summarizes with this statement, “Chris Branch and cohorts wrote up a grant based on false and misleading information in order to gain funding. This type of information can have an adverse effect on future grants.” And then “I don’t know, but I thought to gain money by false information was illegal and called fraud.” She then questions Branch’s integrity.

The only time I heard what could be misconstrued as being an either/or situation regarding jobs came from the former director of the NCWEDD. He did not say either the city get the grant or Reman and Reload, or it will lose 136 jobs. What he did say was jobs up and down the railroad line depend to some extent on the Cascade & Columbia River Railroad for transporting their goods. These not only include Remain and Reload and Zosel’s Lumber in Oroville, but also Columbia River Carbonates south of Tonasket, Omak Wood Products and other businesses along the line to Wenatchee. Keeping the railroad running will help to retain those jobs, but he did not say either you get the grant or Reman and Reload leaves. Neither did Brach and neither did we.

We get it, the letter writer doesn’t like the plan, she also doesn’t like Branch, but to accuse him and the city, because he’s their representative, of “fraud” and doing something “illegal” is wrong.

Branch is a problem solver – he would make a great Commissioner and doesn’t deserve to be painted with the type of harmful innuendo in her letter. Let’s stick to the facts.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.