Smith, state legislator, quits Malheur County post in face of controversy

Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, discusses the Treasure Valley Reload Center at a Nyssa meeting on May 17. Beside him is his aide, Ryan Bailey. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

VALE – Greg Smith, Malheur County Economic Development director, notified county officials Tuesday, June 28, he will resign from his position immediately.

Smith, through his company, Gregory Smith & Company of Heppner, served as the county economic development director since 2013. Smith is paid $9,000 a month for his economic development work. In 2017, the county expanded his contract to include the planned Nyssa rail reload center and paid him additional $6,000 a month.

“It has been an honor to serve the good folks in Malheur County, and to make a difference in the area,” Smith began in his resignation letter.

Smith then wrote his company was no longer interested in “continuing to provide services” to Malheur County. His annual contract expires on Thursday, June 30.

“It has become apparent that the environment surrounding economic development has become incredibly toxic. Please accept this letter as formal notification that Gregory Smith & Company will not be renewing its contract for services rendered to Malheur County,” wrote Smith.

Smith, a Republican state representative, worked part-time on his county economic development director duties and operated a one-person office in Ontario. He also provides contract services to Harney County and Eastern Oregon University and is employed full time by the Columbia Development Authority.

The county court was originally scheduled to consider renewing Smith’s $180,000-a-year pact Wednesday, June 29.

In his resignation letter, Smith also requested a “comprehensive financial audit be conducted upon our exit.”

Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, said he learned about Smith’s resignation Tuesday afternoon.

“I am kind of shocked. I’ve got to process this,” said Joyce.

Joyce indicated earlier in June the county would most likely extend its contract with Smith.

“My guess is it would be like a three-month extension or maybe a six-month extension if all the numbers fall into place,” said Joyce previously.

The next step for the county, said Joyce, is “a good question.”