Time to review City rules of governance
This year our City Council has held multiple meetings regarding Council rules, but despite the use of an expensive facilitator, they are still not finalized.
With so much time, effort and expense being spent, it seemed a good time to review the rules that govern our city.
— Oregon statutes (ORS): West Linn is required to follow ORS statutes, https://tinyurl.com/yy38j2lj.
These cover multiple topics ranging from ethics to elections and utilities to city planning. They also have the ability to override our City Charter. An example of this was annexation, which no longer allowed West Linn voters to make these decisions.
Sections of ORS also provide direction for public meetings and executive sessions. Any violation of these, no matter whether or not they are inadvertent, can be reported to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and could result in penalties.
— Executive sessions: These sessions are closed to the public and so require very strict guidance regarding what can be discussed. No final decisions can be made at these meetings to ensure that votes occur in a public forum.
City Charter, Section 16 states: "No action by the Council shall have legal effect unless the motion for the action and vote by which it is disposed of take place at proceedings open to the public."
The rules for executive sessions are read before each of these meetings and the public may witness this part.
So why is the City of West Linn paying for Councilor Teri Cummings' legal representation as she seeks to retain her meeting notes?
Our Council Rules state: "Requests to the City Attorney for advice requiring more than 15 minutes of legal research shall not be made by a Councilor or the Mayor except with the concurrence of the majority of the Council."
Has there been a vote on this matter? Shouldn't this vote be made in a public setting considering that taxpayers are footing the bill? Are we complying with the ORS statute on executive meetings?
n West Linn Charter: The charter is the overriding document that defines how the City of West Linn is governed. It takes the ORS statutes, defines them further and personalizes them for our use.
It dictates the council format, our form of government, i.e. Council/City Manager, terms of office, stipends, legal representation, land use, utilities, etc. This document was enacted by a vote of the people and a vote of the people is required to make any changes. This ensures public participation in government decisions, transparency and consistency.
— City Council rules: Our Council rules drill down further as needed. However Councilor Cummings, on the City Attorney's advice argues (Tidings April 18, 2019) that the Council is not governed by the adopted Council rules, and stated "they (the rules) may be suspended upon affirmative vote by the Council."
So why spend time and money on rules that you only follow if convenient?
It is important for West Linn citizens to understand the rules of government. They ensure that the City runs efficiently, ethically and fiscally responsibly. We need to hold our elected representatives responsible for adhering to all the rules and for transparently making decisions in a public setting.
Are legal representation and these endless meetings on the taxpayers' dime fiscally responsible?
Brenda Perry is a former West Linn City Councilor.
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