Ex-councilman points finger at Ashland panel

ASHLAND — A former Ashland city councilman has accused the council of holding an unadvertised public meeting last week after hearing that members met for drinks at Caldera Tap House and talked about a rally opposing the expansion of the Mount Ashland ski area.

In a public email to the council, Eric Navickas also said he'd heard that Councilman Michael Morris had torn down a poster promoting the June 28 rally and brought it inside Caldera, where city officials discussed it.

City Recorder Barbara Christensen, who was present at the gathering, said council members did not discuss city business and therefore did not violate public meetings law. She, several council members and City Administrator Martha Bennett had gathered at Caldera after their June 21 council meeting ended early.

Enough members were present to make a quorum, which in Ashland's case requires four council members or three members and the mayor. Christensen said a quorum of city leaders can meet socially without violating public meetings law as long as they don't discuss official business.

She said the conversation was mainly about family and travel.

"I heard no discussion of city business," Christensen said. "I would have spoken up if I had. I'm very cognizant of that."

Morris said he took the poster down to look at it and brought it inside. He said he and the other members talked about how the expansion issue could come before them again, possibly in August, and noted that the time of the rally overlapped the time of the June 28 council meeting.

The U.S. Forest Service recently reaffirmed its earlier approval of the ski area expansion and is in the midst of an administrative appeals process.

"We didn't bring up anything on the merits of the decision," Morris said.

Morris said he didn't want to disclose his personal views on the expansion because the issue could come to the City Council for discussion.

In a separate email, Navickas, a longtime opponent of the expansion plan, urged councilors to file an appeal of the expansion approval.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter at the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at vlaldous@yahoo.com or 541-479-8199.

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