ashland.news
July 18, 2024

City attorney takes blame in ethics oversights in executive sessions

Interim Ashland City Attorney Doug McGeary explained a change made to the city’s telecommunications ordinance in April. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
June 26, 2024

Both City Council and Parks Commission appear to have violated executive session laws

By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news

Acting City Attorney Doug McGeary said a breach of Oregon Public Meeting Law during an Ashland City Council executive session was an oversight caused when he performed duties normally in the purview of human resources. 

An increase in pay for Interim City Manager Sabrina Cotta was discussed during a June 18 Ashland City Council executive session. In an interview with Executive Director of the Oregon Ethics Commission Susan Myers, Ashland.news learned discussing compensation in executive session is prohibited under Oregon Public Meeting law. When asked about the executive session, McGeary confirmed compensation was discussed. 

The performance evaluation for Cotta was the main subject of the meeting but Human Resources staff could not perform the evaluation because Cotta oversees the HR department. McGeary said he was not familiar with “acting in an HR capacity,” and therefore did not know Oregon Public Meeting law prohibits discussion of compensation during an executive session. 

“There’s a rule apparently that I was not aware of, I should have been but I just didn’t know it. … Just a genuine error on my part, they (city councilors) weren’t aware of it. They were acting under my counsel,” McGeary said. 

Delicate personnel matters such as performance evaluations and changes in compensation will have to be reevaluated for the future to align with the law while respecting the individual staff at hand during a public meeting, he said. 

A pay increase would not normally be part of a performance evaluation, but Cotta was being recognized for the volume of work she is performing while filling the roles of both deputy and interim city manager, he said. 

The pay raise was outlined in an addendum to the employment agreement for Cotta to serve as pro tem or interim city manager. Obtained by Ashland.news, the addendum specifies a one time $20,000 deposit to Cotta’s retirement account and a move from step 4 or $185,657 annually, to step 5 or $191,227 of the city of Ashland’s pay scale. 

The addendum also replaces the previous stipulations for performance evaluations. “The employee” will now have “additional performance feedback opportunities,” in May and September with an annual performance evaluation on Jan. 30, according to the addendum. 

In discussing the ethics oversight with the City Council, McGeary also stated the recent ethics oversight with Ashland Parks & Recreation should be understood as a final decision not yet made, not a decision illegally made in executive session. 

APRC Commission Chair Jim Bachman stated the commissioners chose the new parks director during an executive session because they were unaware the decision could not be made in executive session, as previously reported by Ashland.news. McGeary said commissioners are confused in this case and the confusion is due to unclear counsel from himself. 

“There was no final decision. … We made sure there was no final decision made in executive session,” he said. 

McGeary stated while he was not present at the session in question, Assistant City Attorney Carmal Zahran was, in addition to Human Resources Director Molly Taylor. In conferring with Zahran and Taylor, McGeary confirmed no formal vote was held during the executive session. Because there was not a formal vote, commissioners may have made up their minds during the session, but there won’t be a complete decision until commissioner’s hold a vote in a public meeting, McGeary said. 

Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at morganr@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Related Posts...

Council agrees: A denser Ashland would make more city more ‘liveable’

In just an hour and half on Monday night, the Ashland City Council strongly affirmed that the city’s future will include major swaths of taller, denser development designed to reduce our dependency on automobiles, adapt to climate change, and provide a greater amount of multi-family and affordable housing, while striving to provide spaces for commercial and small-scale industrial uses.

Read More »

Fire reported outside Ashland only a ‘water dog’

Lighting on Monday appeared to spark a small fire outside Ashland but the apparent fire was only what’s known as a “water dog.” Oregon Department of Forestry Public Information Officer Natalie Weber confirms the apparent fire has been found by aircraft to be a “water dog,” or a small low cloud formed by water evaporating in the heat.

Read More »

Latest posts

Council agrees: A denser Ashland would make more city more ‘liveable’

In just an hour and half on Monday night, the Ashland City Council strongly affirmed that the city’s future will include major swaths of taller, denser development designed to reduce our dependency on automobiles, adapt to climate change, and provide a greater amount of multi-family and affordable housing, while striving to provide spaces for commercial and small-scale industrial uses.

Read More >

Chris Honoré: A debate narrative

Chris Honoré: Donald Trump simply cannot win the presidency. He must not return to the White House. Perhaps he can last four more years, but our Democracy won’t. With a mixture of regret and urgency, the number of elected Democrats calling for President Biden to step down grows.

Read More >

Obituary: Jed D. Meese

Obituary: Jed Meese died on June 24 at the age of 86. Jed started several successful companies, each with a physician partner in Japan, Sweden, Turkey, and the UK, which designed and developed both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Jed was extremely generous and philanthropic to our community and nationally. He served on Boards of Directors and Foundations for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Southern Oregon University, Ashland Community Hospital, Asante, Ashland Family YMCA, and many others.

Read More >

Obituary: Joyce Theresa (Brenner) Epstein

Obituary: Joyce Theresa (Breener) Epstein, 96, of Ashland died March 26. Her work has been dramatized by college and university theater arts departments, and she is the author of the chapbook, “A Journey Through Life Unguarded, The Book,” and “The Stars Gave Us Names.”

Read More >

Explore More...

In just an hour and half on Monday night, the Ashland City Council strongly affirmed that the city’s future will include major swaths of taller, denser development designed to reduce our dependency on automobiles, adapt to climate change, and provide a greater amount of multi-family and affordable housing, while striving to provide spaces for commercial and small-scale industrial uses.
Chris Honoré: Donald Trump simply cannot win the presidency. He must not return to the White House. Perhaps he can last four more years, but our Democracy won’t. With a mixture of regret and urgency, the number of elected Democrats calling for President Biden to step down grows.
Ashland's Street Division installed a colorful thermoplastic artwork piece titled "Walking Upstream." The work was designed by Glory Salinas Nylander and chosen by the Public Arts Advisory Committee and funded by the Ashland Beautification Initiative.
City Corner: Please remember, effective emergency preparedness means ensuring ALL your family members have access to Citizen Alerts, including older children with cellphones.
Jed D. Meese, known in the Rogue Valley for the many millions he and his family donated for the betterment of the community, died at home in Medford on June 24, 2024, at the age of 86. Friends and associates say the true measure of the man was in the contribution of not only his treasure, but also his time and talent and empathy.
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.