By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
At Monday’s board’ meeting, Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson questioned both the seriousness of COVID-19 and the usefulness of Gov. Kate Brown’s new two-week freeze.
“I have trouble understanding why this particular illness is being treated different than anything in my 65 years of life,” he said. “I have trouble understanding why we’re changing everything. In the whole history of humankind, there’s been way worse things than this that didn’t do this and yet we’re doing this to the detriment of so many things.”
After reading a Central Oregon Daily News story about Monday’s meeting, Bend resident Beth Dollar sent all Deschutes County Commissioners an email, saying the meeting cast the leaders in a poor light.
“Perhaps it’s a good thing Commissioner Henderson is leaving us since he cannot understand why COVID-19 is such a problem…the lack of education by some of our commissioners is alarming,” Dollar wrote in the email. “Commissioner Henderson states he doesn’t understand the numbers. That’s his job. It’s all of your jobs.”
Henderson, who lost a bid for re-election earlier this month, sent Dollar an email back.
“I wonder if in terms of intelligence you are three or four levels below me,” Henderson wrote. “I get tired of wild libs like you acting like you are experts, when really you are fear mongers. You take all of my comments out [sic] context, which I imagine you probably don’t understand anyway (the context I mean).”
“I understand probably way more about the COVID virus than you ever will,” Henderson continued. “What is your academic background and IQ? Happy to compare piece by piece.”
It wasn’t exactly what Dollar expected to read from an elected official.
“I first was very taken aback and horrified,” Dollar said. “I looked at my letter to him and was like, did I say something that triggered this aggressiveness?”
Dollar received a liver transplant last year and is considered high-risk during the pandemic. She wrote the email, she said, because she “couldn’t believe” county leaders would question the severity of the virus.
“I think that I’m correct in thinking that this was a letter that was not professional,” Dollar said. “It really did affect me, it horrified me. I can take it, but what if this went to someone who was disabled, was mentally disabled? Everybody has problems. That’s not the kind of letter you write to anybody.”
Commissioner and board chairwoman Patti Adair said she’s received multiple emails regarding Monday’s meeting. Central Oregon Daily News asked Adair what she thought of Henderson’s response.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to respond to that,” Adair said. “I always personally try to treat everyone with kindness and consideration.”
After repeated requests for comment Wednesday, Henderson provided Central Oregon Daily with a written comment, saying Dollar’s email was an attack.
“Public servants aren’t just punching bags,” he said. “We’ve worked very hard on this pandemic.”
You can see his full response below, as well as the full e-mail exchange between Dollar and Henderson.Henderson CO Daily-11.18.2020