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Kroger Wades Into Central Oregon Water War 

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is wading into the murky mess surrounding the Crooked River Ranch Water Company.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is wading into the murky mess surrounding the Crooked River Ranch Water Company.

In a news release this morning, Kroger announced that the Oregon Department of Justice "has joined a lawsuit seeking to force out management that had improperly used the Crooked River Ranch Water Company for personal gain."

"The management abused a non-profit water district for personal gain in violation of the law, and we're going to put a stop to it," Kroger said in the release.

Kroger's move is the latest development in a nasty feud that has been going on for more than two years and has involved lawsuits, counter-suits, a criminal investigation and a takeover of the embattled water company by the state Public Utilities Commission.

The lawsuit in which Kroger filed to intervene charges that James H. Rooks, the general manager of the water company, improperly borrowed money and equipment from the water district and took excessive pay. It also accuses two district directors of using their positions to arrange contracts between their personal businesses and the water company.

"The litigation seeks to remove the board and the general manager and turn over control of the district to professionals who will run it for the benefit of its members," Kroger's news release said.

An Oregon Justice Department investigation found that between 2001 and 2005, Rooks and his wife, who did the bookkeeping for the water company, got more than $837,000 for wages, maintenance contracts and employee benefits. However, the department brought no criminal charges.

In November filed a $750,000 suit against the Crooked River Ranch homeowners association, charging malicious prosecution, abuse of process, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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