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Jeb Bladine: Evergeen-related stories still swirling

People have asked about the lack of recent updates on various sagas still swirling around the Evergreen campus. The best answer is legal conflicts evolve slowly, often with lengthy gaps between newsworthy events or activities.

We keep following the stories and looking for appropriate points to report on new developments; it appears a few such points are approaching.

In January, we reported how a $20 million lawsuit by The Falls Event Center would go forward against local businessmen J.W. Millegan and Paul Peterson. The two defendants had claimed the suit was an illegal attempt to silence them – a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” But as we reported, the judge denied their motion to dismiss.

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

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Defendants took exception, but in February the judge signed a formal denial. Since nothing had changed, the newspaper didn’t report on that last piece of legal wrangling. The ever-so-slow wheels of civil justice now inch forward.

Meanwhile, Mr. Millegan openly told a newspaper employee that he intends to destroy the newspaper publisher, destroy the newspaper reporter covering this story, and destroy the newspaper itself. Somewhat shocked, we requested additional detailed comment to clarify his statement, but Mr. Millegan did not respond.

Reports are upcoming related to past-due property taxes on the Wings & Waves Water Park. Hundreds of thousands of dollars remain unpaid; re-financing plans are in progress for The Falls Event Center; and cases in Oregon Tax Court are challenging the underlying tax appraisal values on the property.

It’s been five months since we reported on an SEC investigation of Falls Event Center investment practices. Existence of that investigation was widely circulated and confirmed, but such U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission activity goes forward in secrecy, pending resolution. We have reason to believe a resolution is coming, which will trigger more reporting.

One indirectly related story this week reported long-delayed sale of the former headquarters for Evergreen International Aviation. The massive AIA bankruptcy case, with all its tentacles, launched a long progression of controversies continuing today.

The Evergreen museum itself is legally separated from all these stories, but its economic strength is tied to financial stability for The Falls Event Center. The museum continues, with mixed results, to strive for better connections to the local community.

This brief overview of various story lines no doubt falls short of satisfying people wondering about all the details. But as stated, more details are coming.

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

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