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Tony Konkol interrupts citizen's comment at public meeting but faces no further inquiry into other incidents

PMG FILE PHOTO  - Tony KonkolOregon City commissioners voted 3-2 on Oct. 6 against further investigation of City Manager Tony Konkol's interruption of a citizen's public comment and other complaints recently brought against Konkol.

"Please address your comments to the commission. They are the ones making the decision tonight," Konkol said after interrupting the citizen.

Oregon City HR Director Patrick Foiles investigated the complaints from two members of the Barclay Hills Neighborhood Association and found that Konkol had interrupted one of them while making comments during a public meeting. Konkol did not like how the citizen was addressing comments in his direction and in the direction of other city staff, rather than addressing elected city commission members.

"There did not appear to be a need for investigation regarding the events at the commission meeting," Foiles wrote. "Although the resident may have lost his concentration after the city manager spoke to him, the resident did complete his presentation to the commission, and the city manager did not attempt to prevent him from doing so."

Commissioner Denyse McGriff, who was present at the meeting, said she independently reviewed video of the meeting, spoke with those involved in the incident and came to the conclusion that no further inquiry was needed.

"I cannot in good conscience spend funds for an outside investigation," McGriff said. "There are two sides to every story, and I looked at it from both sides."

In calling for an objective review and transparency in evaluating the city manager, Commissioners Frank O'Donnell and Rocky Smith sought outside investigation into various events, not just Konkol's behavior at the Sept. 1 meeting.

"This is not a single event, but a multitude of events brought forward by the complainant, some of which people may have been present for, and some of which they were not. I don't know how you determine the factuality of it without an objective investigator. I hate to put anybody through that, but I think it calls for that," O'Donnell said.

Foiles declined to provide any additional direction to commissioners when pressed at the Oct. 6 meeting. O'Donnell said that Foiles shouldn't be in the position of evaluating his superior who has the power to fire him, and City Attorney Bill Kabeiseman agreed with O'Donnell.

"We probably need to revise this policy; it puts Patrick in a really unfortunate position," Kabeiseman said.

Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith said that the "very strict process" that the city must follow in considering land-use applications also should be improved to help community members. Some of the accusations of citizens involved city staff allegedly giving preference to developers over residents, but the majority of the city's elected officials determined that staff acted unbiased and followed land-use laws.

Oct. 6's meeting ended with commissioners calling for civility.

"Respect is given when respect is received," McGriff said. "We need to be mindful."

Commissioner Adam Marl, who was appointed to his seat after helping lead last year's successful recall campaign against the former mayor, said that recent incidents highlighted how personal rancor continues in Oregon City politics.

"There's was some misconception, after the recall of our last mayor, that everything is going to be great and we're on a unified front … unfortunately that has not been the case," Marl said.

More work needs to be done to work together effectively with citizens and staff, Marl said, and he directly addressed citizens with complaints in the hope that they wouldn't be disheartened by the commission's 3-2 decision. He and other commission members encouraged complainants to stay involved as city volunteers.

"In the end, the city manager reports to us, but we report to you, and so I hope you would have the faith in us that we would genuinely care about what it is you have to say and how you want this city to be run and that we're trying to be the best stewards possible in doing that," he said.

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