Complaint claims council violated three executive session laws at Oct. 15 meeting

After a contentious discussion about executive session laws during a West Linn City Council work session Oct. 29, the City opted to self-report potential violations — which were thought to be minor — to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

Yet that action wasn't enough for Karie Oakes, the resident who first brought up the potential violations during community comments portion of the Oct. 29 meeting. On Nov. 12, Oakes filed a complaint to the ethics commission alleging three violations of executive session law: that the City used an executive session to discuss policy and budget, that it failed to give notice of the executive session to an affected person and that it failed to identify the authorization for the executive session.

"The mayor and city manager have not been transparent about what happened and how it happened, or shown any remorse," Oakes said in an email to the Tidings. "I cannot let this be swept under the rug."

In 2013 Oakes, along with current West Linn City Councilor Teri Cummings, filed a complaint to OGEC against the City of West Linn alleging that the council violated public meeting law. The mayor and three city councilors eventually signed settlement papers admitting that they violated executive session laws, though they were not penalized any further.

Oakes' most recent complaint concerns an executive session that took place Oct. 15. It was noticed under ORS 192.660(2)(i) "to review and evaluate the employment-related performance of the chief executive officer of any public body, a public officer, employee or staff member who does not request an open hearing." In this case, the public officer was City Attorney Tim Ramis.

The session wasn't a formal performance review; rather, it was called so the council could discuss a letter Ramis sent to the City about a possible increase of his firm's hourly rates. Ramis was out of town at the time, and while his firm was informed about the session, it did not send another attorney to attend the session.

Two City Councilors, Teri Cummings and Rich Sakelik, were concerned about the process and did not attend the session.

The City has since said that it erred in not informing Ramis of the session and checking to see if he preferred to discuss the matter in an open session.

Oakes felt that the City's mistakes ran far deeper.

"The meeting was authorized as an executive session for the performance evaluation of the city attorney; however, the mayor claims that was never the intent for the meeting," Oakes wrote in the complaint. "It is unclear if the City Attorney was evaluated or if complaints about his work or dismissal were discussed."

Oakes said her public record request for the audio recording of the session was denied and she will appeal to the district attorney.

City Manager Eileen Stein did not wish to comment.

"The complaint relates to the issue which was already reported to the OGEC," she said in an email. "The complaint (from Oakes) makes this a legal matter now and therefore there is no comment on active litigation.

In a Nov. 1 memo to the City Council, Stein said an OGEC investigator informed the City that its self-report was not required. The investigator suggested that West Linn take training on how to properly convene executive sessions, and Stein said that would be scheduled when two new city councilors are sworn in in January.

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