The news that the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is proceeding with an investigation into the actions of the Union City Council to decide whether that elected board violated law should be a welcome move by taxpayers.
The state probe revolves around whether the council, during two executive sessions in June, discussed non-authorized subjects. Executive sessions are allowed under Oregon law but are closed to the public. When instituted, executive sessions must follow a carefully tailored framework under Oregon law. State law stipulates that when elected boards go into an executive session, they must list the specific statute they are using for the session and what the subject of the meeting will be.
The investigation is the result of a formal complaint to the ethics commission by Sandra Patterson, Union’s former city administrator. Readers may recall that Patterson was at the epicenter of a strange set of circumstances in which she resigned then rescinded the resignation, and was later fired by the city.
Patterson asserts that a June 12 executive session was held under an Oregon statute to discuss Union’s open fire chief slot. Patterson said in her complaint that during the executive session the council talked about her job performance in connection to the vacant fire chief position, which was not following the Oregon statute. Patterson also wrote in her complaint that her eventual dismissal was discussed at a June 15 executive session, which she did not attend, but the meeting was not announced specifically to ponder the future of her employment.
The city’s attorney told ethics commission investigators nothing off limits was discussed during the June 12 executive session. He also said the June 15 executive session was not held to discuss Patterson or whether the city should fire her.
About the best thing that can be said at this point about the ethics commission investigation is that hopefully questions relating to the entire Patterson episode can be answered. Because up until now the elected leaders in Union haven’t seemed very eager to say much of anything about it. When these events occurred in June, Patterson delivered several cryptic remarks about how the city does business and then went into radio silence. The city asserted Patterson resigned. Patterson said she was fired.
This entire episode should have been handled better by the Union City Council. The mysterious way in which Patterson left her position with the city should have been a red flag for Union voters. When city elected leaders decided not to talk about the case, another big red flag should have went up.
Perhaps with the state ethics commission investigating, voters will get the answers they deserve.