State fines Metro for mishandling pioneer cemeteries

State fines Metro for mishandling pioneer cemeteries »Play Video
Loretta Schwartz is still searching for her grandmother's gravesite in one of Metro's cemeteries.

Metro has agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in state fines for mishandling gravesites at its 14 pioneer cemeteries. It has also promised to change the way it's handling all of its gravesites.

Loretta Schwartz still can't believe how bones turned up more than two years ago dumped in a field near Fairview’s Blue Lake Park. She’s still searching for her grandmother’s grave in one of Metro’s cemeteries.

“I don't know how they could have started to do what they did do in the first place,” Schwartz said. “Better get back to the way it was supposed to be. Not dig up people and throw their bones away.”

This all started in 2011 when bones were found in dirt removed from one of Metro’s pioneer cemeteries.

The retired cemetery worker and whistleblower who found the remains, but didn’t want to be identified, told KATU News that workers were often ordered to keep digging even after bones were unearthed.

Metro's settlement with Oregon's Cemetery Board includes a $50,000 fine for mishandling gravesites and records. Metro replaced the grave-digging contractor responsible for tossing out the bones. It also agreed to sift through lower-level soil for remains before the dirt's hauled away from any cemetery.

Metro is also reaching out to relatives to find anyone whose family may have claims on plots in pioneer cemeteries with a dedicated website.

Metro spokesman Paul Slyman said: “The settlement means that the Mortuary Board’s investigation is complete, and that they’ve settled with Metro’s regional government on the steps that Metro needs to take to operate cemeteries how they should be operated.”

Loretta Schwartz believes Metro will keep its promise to improve saying, “Oh I do, yes, because the public eye is on 'em. And as far as finding her grandmother’s gravesite, she said: “I don't know what to say other than I'm going to forage on. I'm kind of relentless."