May 19, 2017 5:00 a.m.
Following a reversal by the Oregon State Land Board earlier this month, Lone Rock Timber Management Company submitted a notice of tort claims of misrepresentation and negligence to the State Land Board and the Department of State Lands on Thursday.
The timber company also told state officials that they plan to sue for breach damages and demand to be compensated for a total of over $3.2 million in damages.
The action comes after a May 9th decision by the Land Board to terminate the established Protocol for the sale of the Elliot State Forest, in favor of keeping the land publicly owned.
Lone Rock and a coalition that included the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians submitted an offer to buy the Elliot for just under $221 million last fall. Their bid was the only one offered after the Land Board had voted to sell the forest in order to meet its commitment to providing revenue to the Common School Fund, from the Elliot.
In December of 2016 officials with the Department of State Lands told the Land Board that the offer from Lone Rock and the Tribe was “determined to be responsive to the Protocol” the board had put together.
Thursday’s letter to the Land Board from Lone Rock, says that from that time, until the May 9th reversal, both sides had been working together towards making the sale happen.
Lone Rock’s letter says that “abruptly, contrary to the Protocol and without any legal basis” the Land Board unilaterally terminated the Protocol at the May 9th meeting. Lone Rock says the decision “wrongfully denied Lone Rock, Cow Creek and the Confederated Tribes the formal direct offer of sale” that the Land Board and the Department of State Lands “had promised would be made numerous times in the Protocol and in public meetings”. The letter goes on to say that the state “wrongly breached and/or misrepresented these explicit promises and what it intended to do, and/or was negligent in failing to implement the promises and representations when they had the duty to comply”.
Lone Rock says they lost $1.3 million in out of pocket expenses while working on the offer. That included legal fees, forest analysis, consulting and other expenses. The $2 million figure refers to the estimated increase in the value of the forest since the state’s appraisal.
In a statement to the media, Lone Rock CEO Toby Luther said the coalition had operated in good faith and met every criteria in the state’s multi-year plan to sell the forest. Luther said “It’s clear now, however, that the governor had no intention of accepting a proposal under the established protocol. You cannot simultaneously encourage bidders and commit to bidders publicly while privately planning a shift in your policy”.