Bill Osburn, who is running against Gladstone City Councilor Linda Neace, became involved with city politics after receiving a $25 parking ticket that he doesn’t think was justified.

Bill OsburnChallenging the ticket required him to pay $90 to get a hearing with the municipal judge. With a letter to the city, he successfully overturned this “extortion fee for going to court,” as he called it.

“I agree with Mr. Osburn that requiring a person to pay $90 per parking violation to obtain a trial is wrong. I am sorry this happened and I am ordering the court clerk to refund the full amount of the bail to Mr. Osburn,” wrote Municipal Judge Linda Beloof in her May 14 opinion. “I am glad he wrote the letter raising this issue as it gives me an opportunity to correct and rescind the former ‘policy.’ I will talk to Chief Jolley and ask that the language on the parking citation be modified to delete the requirement of posting bail to request a court appearance.”

Osburn has earned his expertise in the justice system, this newspaper learned. The Clackamas Review was reviewing records of City Council candidates at Clackamas County Court and discovered that Osburn was convicted of a felony for first-degree theft in 1994. Osburn, who is now 44, was 22 at the time.

“I got in a spot of trouble back then with a felony conviction and misdemeanors in two counties. I do have a past from the early ‘90s, and I’m not proud of it, but I was young then and I’ve changed,” Osburn said. “It was a lesson in life, and I’m a bit wiser now, and now I know that I need to understand what the laws are.”

Osburn said he also learned about the law through filing divorce papers and custody battles. In 2014, he didn’t have a wholesale fishing license and was found guilty of not having the proper license for doing business in Marion County. Clackamas County Court records indicate that in 2008, he initially failed to appear in court on a speeding ticket. Twice in 1989, before he obtained his driver’s license, he was caught driving uninsured.

Osburn says almost everyone gets tickets, but he appreciated the opportunity to put the felony violation in context. Although he “didn’t know at the time what was going on,” he had joined a friend and that friend’s acquaintance on a shopping spree to Washington Square and Clackamas Town Center mall. At the end of the trip, he said he went home with a $25 pet iguana, paid for by the acquaintance.

“Because I was there at the time it was happening and I had the iguana, I was charged as a co-conspirator,” Osburn said. “The gentleman I was with was buying things with checks and ending up overdrawing his account by a substantial amount. My friend who was arrested had a bunch of jewelry and electronic equipment recovered from his house. The person who wrote the checks was also found with a whole lot of loot.”

At the advice of a court-appointed attorney, Osburn took a plea bargain that kept him from doing any time in jail for the crime.

“It helped me to learn about the law a bit, and I would certainly do things differently now, and I would have something different on my record,” he said.

Osburn has a meeting on the Oct. 19 with the judge and city attorney to resolve the parking tickets. In the meantime, he believes the City Council should receive a speeding ticket from voters saying that they rushed too quickly into a lawsuit with Clackamas County without input from citizens.

Executive sessions

Osburn said that the increasingly common executive sessions in Gladstone are not necessary. He thinks that these sessions only serve to exclude the public because City Council members do not want to be open or transparent. Closed sessions, he believes, should only be held for personnel matters of a private matter.

Linda NeaceNeace, a local business owner who was appointed to City Council in April, said that Gladstone has done nothing wrong in holding more council sessions that are closed to the public.

“We can’t make decisions in executive sessions,” Neace said. “We have to bring it forward during a public meeting for a vote to make a decision.”

“They may not vote on things, but they do decide on things,” Osburn said. “In the middle of the Aug. 25 City Council meeting, they closed for executive session for an hour. There was no discussion before they decided to give Mr. Swanson a raise and decided to sue the county.”

While Osburn’s experience in local government is limited to his citizen activism, Neace has served as a volunteer for the Clackamas County Business Alliance, the West Linn Economic Development Committee and Clackamas County Tourism.

“I was in the private sector for 20 years, and we had executive sessions all the time. Even if you work in the private sector, there are certain policies and procedures you have to follow,” Neace said. “We’re making a mountain out of a molehill by stating all the time about executive sessions.”

Osburn believes that working with the county on a library-funding solution instead of fighting is the only option at this point.

“The first step by our council being legal action shows just how ineffective their leadership is,” Osburn said.

Neace said that the city had worked closely with Clackamas County and Oak Grove residents for over four years to identify a new location for the library and to move forward on a much-delayed plan.

“We complied with everything that the county had asked for,” Neace said. “We have followed everything that the county has asked us to, so it left us no alternative. It’s been stated that we’ve been in executive sessions, but we all want a library; there’s no question about that, and my goal is to move the library forward.”

As for the sudden announcement of the lawsuit, Neace said city councilors were under the guidance of their attorney until they got the “green light” to proceed.

“We’ve been talking to the county for months, and they handed Happy Valley a library without jumping through all the hoops that we’ve been having to jump through,” Neace said. “When you’ve got people out there fueling the fire and not stating all the facts, it becomes a bonfire of mistruths that goes out of control. The library and waterwater issues have had to be researched or litigated based on the advice of our attorneys, and I don’t think we’re out of proportion with other cities in terms of the number of executive sessions we hold.”

Right-of-way fee

Osburn sees "taxation without representation” in that Gladstone’s infrastructure continues to crumble as citizens are set to pay an estimated $475,000 in new utility taxes that are not earmarked for improving those utilities.

“How I would have done that right-of-way tax is I would have earmarked those funds to rebuild infrastructure,” Osburn said. “Instead of going into a general fund, where it can be used for lawsuits and other things we don’t need, we should dedicate taxes on utilities to improve infrastructure.”

If this council wasn’t willing to take a stand, then Gladstone wouldn’t be able to bring itself into the 21st century, Neace said. Right-of-way fees charged to utility providers, becoming standard statewide after their introduction in Oregon City, are one of the strategies she sees for fixing the city’s infrastructure.

“It’s not all on Gladstone residents, and that’s one of the keys for people to understand,” Neace said. “The money will go into the general fund, but it will be accounted for. We need to fix our potholes, and the money will go there, from what we’ve been talking about.”

In another opportunity to bring needed revenue into the community, Neace sees two hotels in town from which the city isn’t collecting any transient tax, as most other cities do. In her view of the city falling behind the curve, she compared Gladstone to an infant who now has to go through the painful crawling process before it can walk.

“We’re crawling and it’s painful,” she said.

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