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Jeb Bladine: Obsession blurs lines of propriety

Obsession is a dangerous trait. Just ask J.W. Millegan of McMinnville.

We don’t know exactly why a swarm of FBI agents stormed Millegan’s downtown McMinnville home Wednesday morning, except to execute a surprise “sealed” search warrant. We can only make an educated guess.

First, a few notes about obsession.

In 2014, Millegan became fixated with federal agency opposition to his proposed development of an equestrian center outside Sheridan. His pugnacious approach aggravated so many public officials that chances of success for that rural development sank into negative numbers.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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In 2016-17, Millegan became fervent about the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum site, which he considered an alternative location for his equestrian center. An opportunity arose when a well-reported controversy engulfed The Falls Event Center, owner of various museum campus buildings and aircraft.

Millegan spewed a steady stream of invective at the center, its owner, the museum staff, the museum board of directors and the News-Register for failing to support his legal theories. The center responded by suing Millegan and mysterious Oregon entrepreneur Paul R. Peterson for $25 million, now reduced to $20 million.

This year, Millegan became engrossed with opposition to Urban Renewal District assistance for the Atticus Hotel construction project. When we dutifully reported that my family has a minority share in the project, Millegan launched a series of public attacks suggesting ethical violations by the city, the newspaper and me personally.

Who, I wonder, is next on his vilification list?

Meanwhile, our educated guess about the FBI:

Last year, facing a huge financial judgment, Millegan folded his investment business and filed for bankruptcy. By then, his sons had become principals for a new entrepreneurial company and a new hedge fund.

Millegan openly boasts of being co-founder of the hedge fund. And in a seedy little small claims case this year, a local judge noted Millegan was clearly able to control assets of the entrepreneurial company.

A trusted source told us last month that the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation was exploring Millegan’s connection to that hedge fund. Thus, our educated guess about the FBI’s search of Millegan’s home is that it involves finances. But we can only speculate, given the current sealed status of all federal documents involved in the investigation.

For his part, Millegan may be part psychic. Tuesday evening, he continued his gadfly ways in testimony before the McMinnville City Council. As prelude to yet another diatribe against Urban Renewal financial plans, he issued this warning: “Don’t believe what you read in the paper.”

Well, believe it or not, the FBI has landed.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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