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UPDATE: Two city councilors who were left out of meeting not upset

If a city council has seven members, three of them can meet any time they’d like, under Oregon law.

FILE PHOTO - Jacque BetzBut something fishy could be going on if three of these city councilors meet to interview a formerly embattled city manager to consider her as the new assistant city administrator.

That’s the concern for Gladstone city councilors who were left out of an interview with Gladstone City Administrator Eric Swanson and Jacque Betz, who resigned as Newberg city manager in August 2015, following a month-long quarrel that began when she placed Police Chief Brian Casey on leave to assess the police department. Gladstone Mayor Tom Mersereau, Council President Kim Sieckmann and Councilor Steve Johnson met with Betz on Wednesday without notifying the rest of City Council.

Although Kevin Johnson is one of the Gladstone city councilors who was not invited to the conversation with Betz, he did not see anything wrong with three city councilors helping decide whether a candidate should be considered further. Johnson, who was appointed to City Council last month, and Councilor Pat McMahon are saying that they disagree with criticisms of the meeting with Betz.

“We hired the city administrator to hire other people to work for the city, so we should let him do his job,” Johnson said.

After two conflicting reports came out alternately accusing Betz and the police department of misconduct, she ultimately resigned as Newberg City Council indicated it would recommend a longer investigation into her actions. The $97,000 settlement agreement, both sides concurred, was cheaper for everyone than a lengthy continued investigation and potential litigation that would follow.

Especially with two recent appointees to City Council, Gladstone City Councilor Neal Reisner said he was also concerned about the governance of Gladstone where a minority of City Council met in secret with Betz. Though it’s public knowledge that Gladstone Assistant City Administrator Jolene Morishita is retiring at the end of June, the position has not been advertised.

“We need to be transparent in our decision making and include the citizens, not close them out, which is why I’m going to ask at the next City Council meeting, Tuesday, May 10, that we go through a hiring process that involves the citizens of Gladstone for both positions, assistant city administrator and police chief,” Reisner said.

Gladstone’s new mayor says that the city is still “going through the process of talking with people and deciding what we’re going to do” about hiring a new assistant city administrator.

Although Mersereau saw Betz as a “well-qualified candidate,” he said that other candidates will be considered. Mersereau added that that he would be happy to have the initial discussion about the potential hire in an open session, if that’s what a majority of city councilors want.

Whether the initial discussion on whether to hire Betz as the new assistant city administrator is made in an open session or an executive session, “all of the councilors will be involved to make the decision,” he said.

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