The Clackamas County District Attorney's Office last week denied a request made by the Tidings to force the City of West Linn to release tapes of an executive session in which the Tidings believed the city council unlawfully made decisions regarding a lawsuit filed against Council President Teri Cummings.
Because Oregon law states, "No executive session may be held for the purpose of taking any final action or making any final decision," the Tidings suspected the council to have violated this law in deciding to let the office of City Attorney Tim Ramis represent Cummings in the lawsuit and pay for the representation with City funds.
The Tidings made a records request through the City of West Linn for the executive session tapes July 25. The request was denied by the City Attorney's office Aug. 7
In his denial of the request, Ramis cited lawyer-client privilege, writing, "Executive sessions are appropriate for consulting with legal counsel regarding current litigation or litigation likely to be filed.... Discussions in executive session may proceed to the point in which the governing body has reached an informal consensus as to its course of action."
Still believing that the public had a right to know how the discussion which led to the decision for Ramis to represent Cummings with taxpayer money unfolded, the Tidings appealed to the Clackamas County DA's office to review the records request.
After reviewing the tape of the session, Deputy DA Brian Powell found that the council did not violate executive session laws based on his interpretation of the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual.
"There is a lack of judicial opinions interpreting this statute," Powell wrote in his decision. "However the Attorney General's Manual provides some helpful analysis suggesting that the purpose of this provision is to ''...engage in a private and candid discussion with counsel about the legal issues raised by the litigation.'"
Powell deemed that the council did not make a final decision, because according to the Attorney General's Manual, an official decision requires a vote from the public body and no such vote took place in the executive session.
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