Can we afford this City Council?
In 2016, Teri Cummings was considering a run for City Council. Although she supported my election campaign, I'm not a believer in Quid Pro Quo.
It's important to keep personal feelings out of decisions like this and instead evaluate the candidate's suitability. Given her history of constant conflict with what seems like every board and council with which she had served, I told her that I considered this a bad idea. West Linn needed someone who understood teamwork and compromise and who would put the city ahead of any personal agendas.
A week or two later she arrived on my doorstep saying she had some bad news. She had decided to run for council. At that time, even I did not realize how bad that news was. To make things worse, I endorsed Richard Sakelik, thinking that he would be an independent voice for the City.
Ms. Cummings was duly elected and supported by Mr. Sakelik, she proceeded to exceed my worst expectations. Although serving with councilors Frank and Tan had its challenging moments, it was a walk in the park considering what was to come.
Earlier in 2016, the city had conducted a nationwide search for a new City Manager. We set up several interview committees consisting of Advisory Board members and multiple citizens. Ms. Stein was a popular choice with all these groups as she was an Oregonian with considerable experience and a friendly and open personality.
It takes time for any new employee to settle in and get familiar with the city and staff, but Ms. Stein hit the ground running. She brought efficiency to City Hall and worked hard to make citizens feel welcome and involved.
The job of City Manager is very challenging. First Ms. Stein had to gain the trust and support of the staff. We had recently lost the Assistant City Manager and the Community Development Director and then soon after her arrival, we lost our Director of Finance. Next to go was our Chief of Police, leaving controversy behind him. Through all this she stayed positive and worked to build the staff again.
Lauren Breithaupt, the protege of our previous Finance Director, was promoted to step into his position. Ms. Stein then lured John Williams away from Metro to reorganize our Planning Department. She conducted a search for a new Police Chief and again citizens were involved. Despite some early controversy over her selection, we now feel lucky to have Terry Kruger leading a new and highly diverse police department.
The election of Bill Relyea provided Councilor Cummings with a majority vote and second assistant, giving her the power she seemed to long desire. Despite putting Ms.Stein through five executive session meetings and 15 hours of debate about her evaluation and performance objectives, the three councilors apparently were unable to bully and harass her into resigning.
Also, unable to find cause to fire our hard working, long suffering and very experienced City Manager, Cummings, Sakelik and Relyea, have taken it upon themselves to terminate her employment without cause and deal yet another blow to West Linn's finances and reputation. Perhaps the next question for the people in West Linn should be "Can we afford to allow these three to continue damaging our beautiful city?"
Brenda Perry is a former West Linn city councilor
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