Aurora seeks new mayor
Aurora is seeking a mayor, and plans are to have the office filled by the town's Tuesday, Oct. 8, city council meeting.
That is what has transpired since Mayor Kris Sallee tendered her resignation on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
City records from a Sept. 10 regular council meeting cite a number of disagreements between Sallee and city staff, dating back several years, including periods when she served as a city councilor. It is unclear if those were instrumental to her decision to resign.
Sallee's resignation letter was terse: "Due to the escalating lack of communication and cooperation with the City Council and City Staff I do hereby resign my position as Mayor of Aurora effective immediately."
The following evening, Thursday, Sept. 12, Aurora City Council called an "emergency meeting," whereby the council accepted Sallee's resignation and declared the mayoral position vacant.
The meeting reportedly lasted less than five minutes and was presided over by City Councilor Mercedes Rhoden-Feely. Council President Tom Heitmanek was out of town, but he joined the meeting via telephone.
The council voted unanimously to accept Sallee's resignation and to declare the position open. The city plans to post the vacancy through Sept. 30 and is accepting applications, from which they plan to name a successor to serve out the term. Heitmanek will fulfill mayoral duties until that appointment is made.
A second item on the emergency agenda involved a formality, rescinding Sallee's authority to write city checks. City policy invests that authority to four people, the mayor, council president, public works superintendent and city recorder.
Sallee's decision comes in the wake of the city's regular council meeting, held on Tuesday, Sept. 10. During that meeting, City Recorder W. Scott Jorgensen submitted a letter to the council explaining that he planned to file "a formal complaint against Mayor Kris Sallee with the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
"In short, the complaint is due to Mayor Sallee's conduct towards me while I was out of the office on paternity leave, and upon my return."
Jorgensen was on paternity leave in August, and he left a list of cohorts who were handling his tasks for the week or so he was out. But he continued to receive city-related email and phone queries from Sallee. He included those in his reports along with descriptions of subsequent discussions with the mayor, in which she appeared to challenge his purview as the city recorder and overstep her own as mayor.
Some of the latter instances Jorgensen depicted through email exchanges between himself, the mayor and City Attorney Sara Kendrick, within which the mayor appeared to eschew not only the recorder and his purview but the city's legal counsel as well.
Jorgensen said when he returned from leave, the mayor met with him and asked him to sign a performance review. He said it was a negative evaluation based on a phone call he took while on leave, during which his wife had taken the phone from him and explicitly pointed out that her husband not currently on the time clock.
The report to the council also included similar letters from city staff, including City Finance Officer Mary Lambert, who indicated resurfacing of issues with Sallee.
"I would like to bring to the attention of the council that once again, the atmosphere here at city hall has become disheartening," Lambert conveyed in a Sept. 3 letter. "Many of the same issues that I addressed in March 2017 regarding the behavior of Councilor Sallee are happening again. It appears that with the title of Mayor, she feels she can unilaterally make demands of and reprimand city staff."
Lambert questioned the mayor's assumed prerogative to exclusively direct city staff, adding that such actions have created an unhealthy work atmosphere.
Jorgensen noted city staff had similar issues before he joined city of Aurora 1 ½ years ago, including his predecessor. He also emphasized that the city's protocol for conducting business comes via the direction of the city council as a voting unit and not single member serving on the panel, in any capacity.
Apply for Mayor
Any Aurora residents interested in serving as the town's mayor should submit a letter of interest at www.ci.aurora.or.us.
Further information will also be posted on the city's website and Facebook page.
The current mayoral term expires in January 2021.
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