Oregon City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell said the investigation report on Mayor Dan Holladay has been kept secret from the public for too long.
O'Donnell noted that voters will receive their Holladay recall ballots next week and need as many details as possible about the mayor's actions so they can decide whether to remove him from office.
In an email obtained through a public-records request, O'Donnell had pressed City Manager Tony Konkol to allow commissioners to discuss the Holladay investigation in a public meeting Oct. 2, as they had on June 17, "in the interest of government transparency."
Konkol refused O'Donnell's request to hold the discussion in public, saying the draft report for city commissioners is protected by attorney-client privilege.
"Once the Commission determines that additional information is not necessary, then the Commission will be providing direction on how to move forward with the report," Konkol wrote in advance of the Oct. 2 closed-door meeting of Oregon City commissioners.
Oregon City's elected officials have the power to release the draft report anytime, but Konkol and the city attorney, who according to the email were "providing the options for release of the information and the process to do so at the executive session" on Oct. 2, encouraged them to keep the report secret until they had received all the information they wanted from the investigation. City commissioners are next scheduled to meet Oct. 21, and they may vote then to release the draft report.
On Oct. 9, the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office determined that Oregon City had found a way to circumvent state laws that normally require the timely disclosure of public records. Deputy DA Jeffrey Nitschke said Pamplin Media Group made a "compelling public interest argument" for the report's public disclosure, but only city officials have the power to release the report, and may do so at any time they wish.
O'Donnell agreed with the district attorney that the draft Holladay investigation report is of great public interest.
"Finalization of the report is taking way too long," O'Donnell said. "This matter is coming before the voters, and it's best for an informed voter on the recall to have that information as soon as possible."
Lori Watson was hired after city commissioners on June 17 ordered an investigation into the mayor's continued defiance of COVID-19 orders and his attempts to raise money for a city celebration that would have been in violation of the ban on large public gatherings.
Although he didn't respond to these reasons for the investigation, Holladay's 200-word "statement of justification" recently put a recall initiative on the ballot.
Other reasons for the Holladay recall were outside of the scope of the investigation ordered by the City Commission. While he participated in the June 9 meeting and joined the unanimous vote to support the resolution against racism, he did not make any additional comment, unlike the other commission members who spoke at length pledging to fight for a public environment that is respectful and free of hate.
Holladay's alleged request for campaign funding is part of an impending lawsuit over a stalled construction project. He also directed a city-contracted employee to end the meeting recording directly after he adjourned a June 3 meeting, which prevented other commissioners from responding to his comments about racism on tape.
O'Donnell's opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Jeff Akin, agrees that the draft Holladay investigation report should be released to the public. So far, Akin has not taken a public position on the recall, while O'Donnell has become a vocal supporter of removing Holladay from office.
"We were in danger of being labeled as racist, intolerant, unattractive to business development and encouraging of civil disobedience to state of Oregon legal actions designed to ensure our safety," O'Donnell wrote in a recent opinion article. "At this time the right thing is to cast our votes to recall Mayor Dan Holladay, and allow our city to heal, regroup and refocus on the community we wish to be."
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