Chelatchie Prairie Rail Line operator files complaint alleging pressure over political donation


Eric Temple filed the complaint against Sen. Ann Rivers and Clark County Councilor John Blom

CLARK COUNTY — The president and CEO of Portland-Vancouver Junction Railroad (PVJR), which operates the county-owner Chelatchie Prairie Rail Line, is stirring the waters of Clark County politics.

PVJR President Eric Temple in July 2019 at an open house on Freight Rail Dependent Use development at Hockinson High School. Photo by Chris Brown
PVJR President Eric Temple in July 2019 at an open house on Freight Rail Dependent Use development at Hockinson High School. Photo by Chris Brown

Eric Temple, this week, filed complaints with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) of Washington against Sen. Ann Rivers (R-Vancouver) and Clark County Councilor John Blom.

The allegations link back to a $20,000 contribution PVJR made to the Clark County Republican Party (CCRP) on July 2, which Temple says was “for the primary.”

“They could spend this on office furniture,” Temple said in an interview with Clark County Today. “I have no control over this money once it leaves my account.”

In an email responding to the allegations, Blom says a staff member with his re-election campaign had heard from “several members of the Republican Party” that Temple was using the CCRP to funnel money to the campaign of Karen Bowerman.

Clark County Councilor John Blom at an event in January 2020. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark County Councilor John Blom at an event in January 2020. Photo by Mike Schultz

Blom says that staffer contacted Amber Carter, a lobbyist who has worked on behalf of Temple, to find out if the allegations are true. Temple alleges that Carter was told Blom “would destroy me” if he didn’t act to make sure his contribution wasn’t used to fund Blom’s Republican opponent.

“And it was indicated in these communications that Blom was working with Ann Rivers,” said Temple, “which came as a surprise to me because I’ve always been sort of polite to Ann.”

Blom said he spoke with the staff member who contacted Carter and “was assured that absolutely no threats were made towards Mr. Temple.”

Temple says he had no idea where his company’s donation would be spent, but was told by Rivers that $15,000 had been earmarked for Karen Bowerman’s campaign.

Sen. Ann Rivers (R-Vancouver). Photo courtesy annrivers.com
Sen. Ann Rivers (R-Vancouver). Photo courtesy annrivers.com

“I’d be deeply appreciative if you instructed the Clark County Republican Party to give the remaining 5K to friends of Ann Rivers,” the candidate wrote in a text to Temple on July 1. “This would solve a number of problems for both of us.”

Temple says Rivers refused to elaborate on what those problems were, but said “I’ll be watching what you do.”

“I think I was asked to break the law,” says Temple. “I don’t think it is legal for me to instruct a third party to give campaign money to a politician in exchange for some promised assistance down the road.”

In a response to Clark County Today, Rivers says that’s not at all what she was implying.

“The problems to which my text was referring to that need solving is how fractured the Republican party apparatus is in Clark County,” Rivers also wrote. “Mr. Temple’s support would have helped mend some broken fences, which would then free us all up – business leaders, candidates, and elected officials – to be working on issues that affect our state and local government, instead of spending the time we do dealing with interpersonal issues between party insiders.”

Temple says his interpretation of the “problems” Rivers mentioned had to do with his ongoing dispute with Clark County over the status of PVJR’s lease to operate the line, which is owned by the county.

“My immediate reaction was a feeling of being extorted and of being solicited for a bribe,” Temple said in a press release announcing the filing of his complaints.

“Every allegation that Mr. Temple has made about me is absolutely false,” Rivers wrote. “I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.”

The ongoing legal fight with the county has shelved implementation of a zoning overlay along a portion of the Chelatchie Prairie line which would allow PVJR to profit from freight rail-dependent development.

“I have grave concerns about Mr. Temple’s efforts to industrialize Brush Prairie, including his suggestion about the potential of an asphalt plant in the rural area,” Blom said in responding to Temple’s allegations. “Apparently he believes by supporting Ms. Bowerman she will be more supportive of his proposals, over the objections of our rural citizens.”

Karen Bowerman is running for Clark County Council District 3 as a Republican. Photo courtesy Karen Bowerman
Karen Bowerman is running for Clark County Council District 3 as a Republican. Photo courtesy Karen Bowerman

A check of Bowerman’s campaign contributions shows Temple is her largest individual donor, having given $1,000 in a personal donation on June 5.

Temple denies his company’s $20,000 gift to the county GOP was an attempt to further fund Bowerman’s campaign, though he anticipates some of the money might go to her.

“I expected that, obviously,” he said.

Karen Bowerman told Clark County Today “that as a candidate I am not privy to CCRP Board discussions” and she referred us to her husband Earl Bowerman, the Clark County Republican Party chairman, who confirmed a $20,000 check had been deposited on July 7, but added that none of the money has been spent as of yet.

About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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