By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: No harm from a little bit of public scrutiny

Private agencies, even if spending millions of public dollars, can fly under the radar with closed meetings and private records. Sometimes, lacking experience being fully in the public eye, they can respond awkwardly when thrown under a media spotlight.

Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett triggered that kind of spotlight in late January when she announced that she had been unceremoniously removed from the Yamhill Community Action Partnership (YCAP) Board of Directors.

That action, unprecedented in my memory, guaranteed lively newspaper coverage. News reports described complaints by Starrett and others about YCAP communications, program priorities and performance; stories included detailed responses from YCAP Executive Director Alexandra Ball.


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

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Readers familiar with Starrett’s strong-willed ways were not shocked that she might come into conflict with YCAP agency staff. And when asked if there had been ongoing issues with the commissioner before she was removed from the board, Ball responded, “No comment.”

Then, the story partially devolved into a distracting dispute about YCAP board membership.

YCAP bylaws, said Starrett, require one of three elected officials on the YCAP board to be a county commissioner. Ball somewhat misleadingly said those 2022 bylaws were outdated; declined to provide an updated copy; and said inclusion of a county commissioner “is not a requirement of a Community Action Agency or any specific funding sources.”

Being a private agency — even one spending about $17 million in public funds and charitable donations in the year ending June 2022, means you don’t have to make your bylaws available to just anyone. Ball said all aspects of board membership would be addressed at the board’s March 19 meeting, after which “the bylaws will be made public to relevant parties.”

The YCAP board has three choices: Reappoint Starrett to the board; replace her with one of the two other county commissioners; or change their bylaws and name any other local elected official to the board.

Meanwhile, YCAP has an organized public website with lots of information about its people and programs. There are dedicated staff, volunteers and citizen leaders undertaking the YCAP mission: “To advocate for people in need by providing access to resources and tools to strengthen communities in Yamhill County.”

This short-lived distraction is returning to full continuation of those good works, all the better for having been held up to a little bit of public scrutiny. And if nothing else, the February 2024 commotion served as a reminder to all involved that YCAP is not run by Yamhill County government.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.



If I’m not mistaken, YCAP is a 501(c)(3) organization. If that’s true, all records are open to the public, going so far to include employee evals. There are limits, however, such as what and how much info the public can gain about an employee. However, a 501(c)(3)’s by-laws are public domain because it’s taxpayer funded and tax-exempt. Is my thinking correct?

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