Legal bills raise questions at Shady Cove Council meeting

It looks like Shady Cove City Council is going to have one epically long executive session in the near future, based on several points of contention brought forth during their April 18 meeting. The issues were brought up by Councilors Leith Hayes and Gary Hughes at two different points during the meeting. First discussed were legal fees, the April 18 Consent Calendar showed a $3,460.00 line item for legal fees. Councilor Hayes began by asking if $412.00 of this would be reimbursed. The amount was paid on behalf of a private company interested in purchasing Shady Cove Water Works for research into building standards, franchise agreements, fire suppression, etc. Administrator Danise Brakeman advised she would not seek reimbursement. With the Water Bond not passing she feels it is the city’s duty to help citizens get access to water. As that is the intent of the private company, she felt it was best to help them by paying for the legal research.

The bigger legal bill issue that will be discussed in that future Executive Session is lack of detailed invoices publicly available. Hayes obtained several pages of invoices in which most items were marked “Confidential”. Hayes and Hughes would like to see a more detailed breakdown of where the money is being spent as legal fees are much higher than they’ve historically been. Brakeman advised two things: one; legal is used to protect the city and she will always “Err to the side of caution” and seek legal counsel. Second, detailed legal invoices are considered “Work product” and are not subject to public document rules.

Citizen Gary Endicott, who also tried to get detailed copies of invoices and received less than Hayes, noted he feels invoices are not work product. Items like letters would be, but not invoices. Only an Executive Session with legal council will tell what will and will not be available in the future. Councilor Bill Kyle weighed in by saying with $98,000 in bills on the current consent calendar, discussing $3,400 in legal bills might not be the best use of time. Further he feels Brakeman can not do her job if “micromanaged”. At this point Mayor Ron Holthusen wound down the discussion, with Hayes noting he would re-start it later in the meeting.

The re-start came during council comment when Hayes brought up two more issues for dicussion during Executive Session. Hayes received citizen requests for the April 15 Budget Meeting to be recorded as some folks couldn’t attend. When he arrived at the meeting he asked Assistant to the Administrator Aaron Prunty if he could tape the meeting. Per Hayes this was done “Within earshot” of Brakeman. Following the meeting Hayes asked for a copy of the recording if it was not uploaded to the city website. This was done via an email which was forwarded by Prunty to Brakeman. Brakeman advised Hayes, again via email, that the recording would not be uploaded as “in her memory” budget meetings recordings had not been put on the city’s website. Further she “reprimanded” Hayes commenting he’d “directed my staff” to record the meeting.

Hayes was asked to fill out a public records request and pay the $5.00 fee to obtain a copy of the recording. Hayes feels this was an “insubordinate” act on Brakeman’s part. Brakeman advised that Haye’s acting as an individual is subject to the same processes and fees as any citizen. Again, this will be discussed as a possible formal reprimand of Brakeman during Executive session at Hayes’ request.

Lastly Hayes read a prepared statement, haltingly. As he began to read the mayor questioned whether the statement could be read in open session. Hayes quoted ORS law and advised he’d spoken to legal council and could read exactly what he’d written; which was: “I am aware that there was a Settlement Agreement between the City Administrator, representing the City of Shady Cove, and a former Employee. Agreements are usually to save Litigation or Potential Litigation. I am requesting an Executive Session for the purpose of discussing the Agreement, all events leading up to it, and the specific nature of the potential or actual claims against the City of Shady Cove. I am also requesting presence of legal counsel.”

The City Council did get a few resolutions passed; tourism grants, and awards to some groups. The other three key items discussed during the meeting; a needed Flood Plain inspection of property owned by Steve Mitchell, a possible new angle for the riparian issue suggested by Kathy Knuckles and an appeal to the city council from Russ Logue for help with street repairs to James Place. These will be discussed during future meetings.

By Christy Pitto

Of The Independent









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