GOLD Hill — The City Council will consider ways to fill its ranks Wednesday after suffering another vacancy and receiving a financial audit that cited numerous issues.
The council is expected to decide whether to appoint three people to fill vacancies after concerns were raised during a last-minute meeting Monday over lack of a quorum, financial problems and staffing shortages.
Councilor Ron Palmer resigned last week after the city's third interim city recorder in a year quit. Longtime City Recorder Mary Goddard left in January 2017 because of what she said were excessive closed meetings and micromanagement of city employees. She also had filed a harassment complaint against then City Manager Rick Hohnbaum.
Monday’s meeting was noticed late Friday afternoon, posted on the doors of City Hall, after the city received a letter from auditor CPA Steve Tuchscherer of Roseburg.
Tuchscherer notified the city in writing that issues with this year’s audit had been “numerous,” related to inadequate training provided to city recorders since Goddard and to a $74,000 discrepancy dating back to June 2017.
Councilwoman Deb West said the variance was not a matter of money that was missing but was due to contractual payoff for Hohnbaum and city legal fees. Hohnbaum was shown the door in summer 2016 after the city spent $60,000 defending him against two state Bureau of Labor and Industries investigations as well as an Oregon Government Ethics Commission complaint.
Sawyer’s Paddles owner Pete Newport videotaped Monday's meeting and voiced concerns that council members previously declined to fill vacant seats. West said the council had changed its position on filling vacancies because of pressure from legal counsel sought by Newport and because of multiple resignations within the city.
Newport said he had been given "much misinformation by the city over the last six years" and "the run-around" on implied code violations as a business owner.
Newport provided a copy of a letter to the Mail Tribune in which attorney Michael Mayerle said Newport's request for public documents would require a prepayment of $3,100 because of copying costs and staff time.
"I am willing to pay $3,100 for the information requested, but it should be free for all citizens and not hidden from them," Newport said.
Palmer said he resigned due to treatment of city employees and concerns about financial management and ethics at City Hall. Palmer said “ganging up on employees” was a major concern and led to the resignation of two recorders in the past few weeks.
“They push people out. Once we get a recorder, and the recorder is normally the treasurer, too, so once they start asking questions it makes people nervous. This is what I found out,” said Palmer, who was appointed in August.
“The next thing you know, they put pressure on the person and they resign. The biggest problem there is that nobody can just tell the truth about anything.”
Former interim City Manager Dale Shaddox guided Monday’s discussion, advising the council to seek help from other agencies or municipalities for budget process assistance. Shaddox told the council that resignations among employees and even council members were avoidable.
“When you get new people in here, figure out a way to keep them here. People leave for various reasons, but they don’t come and leave in a week without there being just a bad fit of some sort,” Shaddox said.
“My advice, and if I’m blunt then I’m just blunt, OK, but, if whatever it is that’s not keeping people here has anything to do between councilors and staff and councilors and councilors, you people need to get over it. I don’t know how else to say it. You need to get over it. You have business you have to handle. Get. Over. It.”
Council members regularly scheduled meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
— Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.