The Oregon Government Ethics Commission’s investigation of the Union City Council is taking longer than initially anticipated.

Ronald Bersin, executive director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, has granted a waiver for the time limit of an investigation the commission and its staff is conducting to determine if the Union City Council violated state ethics laws as alleged by Sandra Patterson, who departed the Union city administrator position in June 2017.

An ethics commission staff member told The Observer on Friday that Bersin has granted the waiver. The reason for granting the waiver was not provided.

Patterson submitted ethics complaints to the Oregon Ethics Commission in late September 2017. The Ethics Commission and its staff then conducted a preliminary review and, on Nov. 17, 2017, the commission voted to begin an investigation.

Patterson’s complaint revolves around the city council discussing topics in executive sessions on June 12, 2017 and June 15, 2017, that were not on the council’s agenda.

In her complaint, Patterson said the June 12, 2017, executive session was conducted under ORS 192.660(2)(a) to discuss the opening of the City of Union’s fire chief position. Patterson said that during the executive session, the council began talking about her job performance in regard to the open fire chief position. Patterson said she was asked why she had not appointed someone to fill the position even though she did not have authority to do this.

Robert E. Franz Jr., a Springfield attorney representing the City of Union through its insurance company, City County Insurance Services, told Ethics Commission investigators in the course of the preliminary review that during the June 12, 2017 executive session nothing off limits had been discussed.

“Facts and matters all related to the status of the fire chief,’’ Franz said in a story published in The Observer on Nov. 22, 2017.

Patterson, when discussing the June 15 executive session in her complaint, said she had given her resignation but then decided to rescind it. When the meeting got under way, Patterson alleges she asked Mayor Flint what the topic would be, and he said it would be her and that she should not attend. Patterson said the next day Flint and Councilor Matthew Later came to her office for keys and credit cards and told her to go home and not come back.

Patterson interpreted this to mean that she had been fired, and she wrote in her complaint that she believes her dismissal was discussed at the June 15 executive session. She said if her dismissal was a topic at the meeting, it should have been advertised as ORS 192.660(2)(b).

See complete story in Monday's Observer

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