'Errors made' in Gladstone advisory-board appointment process
Vacancies on the Gladstone Planning Commission and Traffic Safety Advisory Board were advertised in the city's newsletter with an Aug. 22 deadline. Only one application was received by the deadline for each of the boards.
Acting City Administrator Jacque Betz talked to Mayor Tammy Stempel and Planning Chairperson Randy Rowlette, and they agreed to extend the application process two more weeks to solicit interest.
"I will admit to you tonight that there were errors made in how we did this process," Betz said.
Councilor Tom Mersereau wondered how the deadline extensions were advertised in the community. Stempel's father applied for the Planning Commission vacancy during the two-week extended deadline period but later withdrew his application.
"The process needs to be fixed; we need to refine it," Stempel said. "That's a given."
On Sept. 26, Councilor Neal Reisner moved to appoint Bill Osburn to the Traffic Safety Commission. Reisner, Osburn and Stempel all ran with the "Voting for a Stronger Gladstone" group in November 2016. Councilors determined that both deadlines were extended and eventually agreed to vote with Reisner's motion.
Michael Milch then moved to accept "with gratitude" the work of the interview committee in recommending a Planning Commission applicant. Milch said that the committee chose retired NW Natural employee Bill Preble over Vogies bar manager Kandice Carlson because Preble has decades of experience working with land-use codes, while Carlson had only recently received a degree from Portland State University that relates to land use. Carlson had applied by the original Aug. 22 deadline, while Preble benefited from the extended deadline.
Planning Commissioner Libby Wentz, who was on the panel to interview the candidates, offered a dissenting viewpoint.
"I hope the city of Gladstone has not opened itself to a second grievance because of loose practices selecting councilors and commissioners," Wentz said. "How do you justify having an applicant submitting her paperwork by the noticed deadline, surreptitiously extending the deadline so two white men can apply, and then appointing one of the white men over the woman? ... Is it because a female is not wanted, or because the male is a friend of the mayor's?"
Councilor Matt Tracy recused himself from the unanimous vote by the other city councilors to appoint Preble. Tracy said that he was concerned not only by the two appointments to advisory boards on Sept. 26, but also the July 25 appointment in which Tracy himself was appointed. City Council had then ignored the recommendation of an interview committee; councilors passed on appointing Frank Hernandez.
"Now we have three broken processes, and we haven't seemed to understand that we needed to get this clarified prior to both of these appointments," Tracy said. "I think we can do better than this."
Betz said that the city made clear to Planning Commission applicants that the interview committee's recommendation was just that: a recommendation.
As previously reported, Hernandez was honored by the nomination of the interview committee and invited his wife to take photographs of him being sworn in as a city councilor. A 19-year resident of Gladstone, Hernandez was selected by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators as the Assistant Principal of the Year.
Hernandez was blindsighted by the City Council's reversal of the interview committee's nomination without any public discussion by city councilors, who have said that they spoke with one another privately before the meeting to discuss the potential appointees, a potential violation of the state's open-meetings laws. Hernandez and his wife ended up leaving the City Council meeting early in embarrassment.
Hernandez has written a letter to the city demanding $25,000 for an allegedly racially motivated decision by city councilors Tom Mersereau, Pat McMahon and Linda Neace. Hernandez has also called for the resignation of all three city councilors and wrote that his attorney will be the city's point of contact after Oct. 10.
"This was a situation in which I feel there were legal violations, and I feel there should be some compensation for the way we were treated in a way that was, if not illegal, extremely unethical," Hernandez said.
All of the positions on Gladstone advisory boards will reopen at the end of the year.
"We're trying to make it better," Betz said. "The first step is acknowledging it and talking about it in open session."