DEPOE BAY — The City of Depoe Bay has failed to provide written accounts of dozens of city council meetings since the resignation of whistle-blowing city recorder Barbara Chestler in April, and Mayor Kathy Short seems to say, “Who cares?”
“I do!” declared City Councilman Jerome Grant, the only city councilor willing to speak out on the issue. “Why is the mayor handing out bonuses and raises to staff for a job ‘well done’ when the job’s not done, yet?”
Written or audio records of all public meetings are required to be kept by state law. Only written minutes, however, are practical to citizens, journalists, auditors and city staff to study and oversee seven influential committees plus the city council with scores of regular and special sessions. According to Roberts Rules of Order, the reading and approval of minutes is so important it occupies a meeting’s first order of business.
“This is wreaking havoc with transparency and trust,” charged Grant, a businessman who is challenging the enigmatic Short in the Nov. 8 mayor’s race. “We can’t keep track of our own decisions without minutes, and the public has no idea what we’re up to.”
“We can’t keep track of our own decisions without minutes, and the public has no idea what we’re up to.”
— Jerome Grant, Depoe Bay city councilor
Both the city charter and council rules mandate written meeting records, including how each councilor votes. But months after a walkout by key City Hall staff, including the recorder and a chief financial clerk, questions arose from the public and press about the so-called “missing minutes” during a recent council meeting.
After an inconclusive discussion with a city secretary assigned to take notes, Mayor Short promised but never delivered nearly six months of missing records.
The oft-ignored Roberts Rules, authorized by a 2003 city council resolution as the benchmark for conduct of Depoe Bay meetings, cites the importance of writing down and reporting the exact wording of motions that often become laws.
A company hired by the city last year to “codify” and streamline 50 years of forgotten resolutions and sometimes-conflicting ordinances relied on the city’s written council minutes, dating back to 1972, to complete the massive study. But it has been stymied in further work since the written record of meetings died out last spring.
Meanwhile, Short unilaterally announced the city would be awarding the remaining city hall staff $5,000 in bonuses, new titles and raises. But as Short might say with a nonchalant shrug, “Who cares?”