COOS BAY — Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission found no reason Friday to overturn a $28,805 fine against a Coos County commissioner candidate.
An administrative law judge had assessed the fine against Dale Pennie after environmental regulators found solid waste on property in the 56200 block of Tom Smith Road in Bandon. Officials determined Pennie had put the waste there over a period of several years, said Regina Cutler, an environmental law specialist.
Pennie said he plans to file a federal lawsuit in the case, arguing officials searched his property without consent. He also alleged that a deputy involved in the case lied in court during his testimony.
“You have violated my constitutional rights,” Pennie said. “I will fight you tooth and nail for my rights.”
The solid waste was stored on land owned by Pennie’s ex-wife as well as a neighbor’s property on which Pennie held an easement. The neighbor had given authorities permission to search his land, Cutler said. Officials from the Department of Environmental Quality visited three times and found 186 cubic yards of solid waste on the neighbor’s property as of March 2008. They determined Pennie would have had to pay $11,205 to dispose of it properly.
A DEQ official also used a warrant to search the Pennie property, where he estimated at least three times as much waste was stored.
Officials said the waste on the Pennie property included 116 vehicles, several buses, two travel trailers, a semi-truck trailer, a tractor-trailer container, auto parts, tires, lead-acid batteries, computer equipment, copying machines, microfiche readers, electrical equipment, broken fluorescent light tubes and household appliances.
Pennie told the commission he had some antique vehicles that he kept because of their historical value, but he hadn’t caused any damage to the ground or the air.
Cutler agreed that no one had found evidence of leaking hazardous materials. But she said Pennie had left materials in the same place without protection from the weather for years. That makes the objects solid waste as far as the DEQ is concerned.
The commission voted 3-0 in favor of upholding the administrative law judge’s decision. After the ruling, Pennie said he’d see them in the state Court of Appeals. Then walked over to Geno Landrum, a rival candidate for county commissioner.
“How do you like coming to these kangaroo courts?” he asked.
Landrum said it was interesting.
Reporter Alexander Rich can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 234; or at email@example.com.