Council members clash over casino conversation

City council members Karen Blair and Eli Matthews received a rebuke from their colleagues, who stopped short of calling Blair a liar over a statement made two weeks ago about a proposed casino.

"Ms. Blair, you were less than forthcoming in your answer," City Councilman Chris Corcoran said at today's meeting. "This was an attempted misconstruing of the truth and an attempt to mislead this council, as well as an attempt to impugn the character of Congressman Greg Walden and his staff."

The dress down by Corcoran and Councilman Bob Strosser was prompted by Blair's statements at a Sept. 20 council meeting where she stated, "I have a call in to Greg Walden's office with no answer."

Blair, who was asking the council to send a letter opposing a proposed casino in Medford, made the statement after receiving a question from Corcoran.

"Did you work through our congressional delegation in attempting to get answers from the federal agencies in order to expedite the process so that you wouldn't get the so-called run around," Corcoran asked Blair.

Blair said she tried to contact Walden, expressing frustration about failing to get more information about the casino from three federal agencies.

However, Corcoran said Blair did have a conference call on June 19 — the day before the council meeting — where she spoke with Walden's field representative, John Howard. The call was initiated by state Rep. Sal Esquivel. Both Blair and Matthews participated in the call.

Blair stood by her earlier comments, saying she didn't actually talk to Walden himself.

"I stand by my entire conversation," she said. "How it is interpreted by others is not under my control."

Corcoran said he was disappointed that Matthews didn't correct Blair's misstatement.

"Mr. Matthews, you knew the facts of the matter when the discussion was being held two weeks ago," he said.

Matthews said Blair didn't specifically speak to Walden, but acknowledged that he had had a "great conversation" with a representative in Walden's office.

"I think there is a misperception of what took place," he said.

Corcoran said he would have referred Blair to an ethics committee for censure if the city had that option available in its City Charter.

John Huttl, attorney for the city, interrupted Corcoran during his comments, warning him that he was stepping outside the bounds of Robert's Rules of Order, which establishes a code of conduct for governing boards. Huttl said Corcoran was close to personally attacking a colleague and close to calling that colleague a liar, which would be outside the bounds of Robert's Rules.

Councilman Strosser also challenged Blair for criticizing Walden's office for being nonresponsive, when his office, in fact, did respond.

"I would like to ask Councilman Blair to clarify what she meant," Strosser said.

Blair, responding directly to Strosser's question, said, "I have no comment."

— Damain Mann

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