Friday, November 25, 2022

THE MISSING MINUTES: ‘No-account’ city hall fails to keep written records

Minutes from a 2017 Depoe Bay city council meeting provide context and facts for hotly debated issues today. Mayor Kathy Short promised but never delivered nearly six months of missing records.
Minutes from a 2017 Depoe Bay city council meeting provide context and facts for hotly debated issues today. Mayor Kathy Short promised but never delivered nearly six months of missing records.

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?”

Rick Beasley
Rick Beasley
Special to Homepage, Rick Beasley is an award-winning journalist across newsprint and digital media. Also founder of the Depoe Bay Beacon and Beacon Media.

3 COMMENTS

  1. There are no “missing minutes”! There are audio recordings of all the meetings available to the public including Councilors on a CD for a fee.

    • Do you know how difficult it is to follow an audio recording, especially when you can’t hear what is being said? Its a joke. There’s a reason for written minutes.

    • If you look at the webpage, there is an area for the link to the written Minutes to be placed. Guess what? No minutes provided at a City Council meeting since May 3. This is NOT acceptable for those following our City Council meetings.

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