CLACKAMAS, Ore. (KOIN 6) – Union officials raised safety concerns with Clackamas County for years prior to the on-the-job murder of weighmaster Grady Waxenfelter in February.
Witness Elias Duhrkoop told KOIN 6 News a man who was on a ride-along with the Waxenfelter described to him the swift and terrible moments that unfolded. It began when the weighmaster approached an O’Malley Brothers truck pulling a trailer of firewood.
“He had only pulled the guy over because he didn’t have a license plate on the back,” he said. “All he was going to do is inform the guy he didn’t have a license plate.”
The suspect, Dirck Morgan White, remains at large.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a call in the middle of the day that one of our members was murdered on the job for doing his job,” said Ken Allen, the AFSCME executive director.
An independent analysis of the incident obtained by KOIN 6 News revealed Clackamas County never trained weighmaster employees for traffic stops, personal safety issues or how to handle verbal abuse and threats.
Union workers, who made 15 to 20 stops per week, also said they were worried that their uniforms and unmarked vehicles also gave the impression they were law enforcement.
Allen said the union has brought those concerns to management for several years, and now the union is making sure those issues are addressed.
“We’re always concerned about safety for employees, especially out dealing with the public. So we’ll look to see if there’s any underlying things that could be changed about the way the job is done to make it more safe,” he said.
Union officials told KOIN 6 News they approached Clackamas County management five or six times between 2010 and 2012, though it was never done in writing or through a formal process.
Management, they said, rejected almost all the concerns, sometimes because they cost too much or because the manager just didn’t want to do them.
Clackamas County suspended its weighmaster program for now.
A spokesman for Clackamas County administrator Don Krupp said, “No comment,” when contacted by KOIN 6 News for this story.
Both the county and the union are waiting anxiously for OSHA’s six-month investigation into the incident. It’s expected to be released this week.
It’s possible Clackamas County will get a hefty fine.
Allen said the entire incident is “a tragedy for the family and our members in Clackamas County.”