The root of the controversy surrounding former Union City Administrator Sandra Patterson’s departure is coming into focus.
The Observer received copies of two letters written by former Union City Administrator Sandra Patterson, dated June 13, 2017, and June 15, 2017, on Thursday from the City of Union concerning her departure. Both letters are signed by Patterson and were emailed by the City of Union in response to a federal Freedom of Information Act request from The Observer.
In the initial letter, Patterson outlines that she would resign soon and that her good name was being jeopardized.
In the next letter, Patterson, a 12-year employee of the city, withdrew her resignation and offered some explanation about the issues that prompted her resignation.
“My reputation as a City Administrator is threatened due to situations outside my control,” Patterson wrote.
During a Thursday phone interview, Patterson declined to provide any additional details about what prompted her to resign and then change her mind. In her June 15 letter she said it was connected to a June payment made by the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show to Union Fire Chief Keith Montgomery for emergency service vehicles and staff.
“My decision to deliver the letter was based on the seriousness of the potential misuse of city property and funds which I have recommended that the city investigate,” Patterson wrote. “As you know, I was not made aware that funds were being paid by EOLS to Chief Montgomery for Emergency Service Vehicles and staff. Unfortunately, my name has been associated as having authorized or required that payment when in fact I know nothing about it.”
Assistant City Administrator Rod McKee said the livestock show paid the city $2,500 for ambulance service. He said the money came to the city, was deposited into an account and then paid to city ambulance volunteers based on how many hours they worked at the EOLS.
“I know for a fact that the money came to the city,” McKee said.
He also said that Montgomery was not among those who was paid with the funds from the EOLS.
“I don’t know of any improprieties in this whole issue,” McKee said.
Patterson said in her initial letter that she would resign in 30 days and added that her decision was based on direction she received from the Union City Council during its June 12 meeting. She said the council’s direction during the meeting put her in her jeopardy of being “guilty of a felony, gross negligence or gross mismanagement,” any of which would put her at risk of being terminated under the terms of her contract, she wrote.
She asked to be paid one year of salary within 30 days. Patterson told The Observer that her salary is about $60,000 a year.
The resignation letter was signed by Union Mayor Leonard Flint, who wrote that he received it June 13.
She expressed optimism at the end of the second letter, stating, “I am confident that the Council, Mayor Flint and I can work together to address (and remedy) this matter in a way that benefits the City of Union and those that we serve. I look forward to discussing this in further detail with you at the meeting scheduled for June 15, 2017.”
Patterson attended the meeting as city administrator but not its executive session during which her June 13 letter was discussed. Patterson did not discuss her resignation at any point of the meeting with city councilors or Flint.
The retraction letter, Patterson said, was put in the city hall mailboxes of all the city councilors and Flint on June 15 prior to the meeting. No portions of the second letter were discussed at the council meeting. No councilors have said they saw the letter prior to the June 15 council meeting. Flint has not indicated whether or not he saw the second letter before the meeting. However, the letter does not have a signature from Flint indicating that he received it. The letter was addressed to “Mayor Flint and City Council.’’
The letter was dated June 14 in its upper portion, but Patterson wrote the date as 06-15-17 next to her signature. Patterson explained that the reason for the difference is that the letter was drafted by her attorney, Zachary Hostetter, on June 14 in Enterprise. She drove to Enterprise on June 15 to get the letter and then signed it and wrote in that day’s date.
Patterson said she went to work on June 16 at city hall but was then told by Flint to leave and not return. She said she interpreted this to mean she had been fired.
Flint could not be reached for comment on this article. In a story in the July 12 edition of The Observer, the Union mayor denied that Patterson was fired.
“She resigned,” he said.