City attorney says he believes the decision conflicted with charter; council fires attorney

HaydenMeshell The Scappoose City Council voted Thursday, Jan. 2, to revise a resolution to change a city ordinance it passed Dec. 16 that was found to conflict with the Scappoose City Charter.

Under the Dec. 16 decision to change the ordinance, the City Council would have had the final say about who the city manager could hire or fire. The action would have limited the city manager’s authority as it is defined in the city charter.

To correct the misstep, City Councilor Jason Meshell, who introduced the ordinance amendment at the Dec. 16 meeting, moved Thursday to revise the resolution, eliminating terminology that stated the council’s vote would be “binding.”

The city manager now retains final authority for hiring and firing city employees after receiving the council’s “advisory decision.”

Shortly after, with no discussion, the City Council voted to terminate the city’s contract with its legal counsel.

“We don’t have to give a reason,” said Councilor Barbara Hayden when asked why the contract was terminated. Hayden brought forward the motion to terminate Scappoose city attorney Ron Guerra’s contract “without cause, upon 30 days notice,” as outlined in his contract with the city.

Guerra declined to comment on the termination, but did provide insight as to the City Council’s decision to rework its previous amendment to limit city manager authority. Guerra told the Spotlight Thursday morning he believed the change council made to the code at the Dec. 16 meeting violated the city charter — the governing document that takes precedence over the city’s municipal code. Meshell’s motion Thursday was an attempt to correct the violation, Guerra added.

Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge and City Councilor Jeff Erickson were the only councilors present to vote against both the code change and the termination of the city’s contract with Guerra.

“I’m opposed to this process. I don’t think that the council should be into the day-to-day hiring and firing of staff,” Burge said. “I still think this motion violates our agreement contracts. I’m not sure, but I’m going to be voting opposed.”

City Councilor Donna Gedlich was excused from the meeting.

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