Molalla City Council did not give support to Mayor Jimmy Thompson's attempt to remove Commissioner Rachel Cain from the Molalla Planning Commission during Wednesday evening's council meeting.
The council tabled the discussion until their next meeting, to give them a chance to review documentation to be provided by Cain.
Thompson had sought the council's consent to remove Cain from office, and had sent an audio tape of a May 3 planning commission meeting to the council for review prior to the meeting.
The audio recording showed that Cain had addressed the commission regarding issues surrounding the city's proposed Urban Growth Boundary expansion and proposed changes to the city's development code.
The city of Molalla, the Oregon TGM and Siegel Planning Services teamed up to re-write the development code for the city of Molalla. A Citizen Code Committee (CCC) is involved in the process.
Cain's main complaint at the pc meeting was that planning commission chair Rae Lynn Botsford withheld important information regarding changes or suggestions made to the development code during a recent CCC meeting.
At Wednesday night's council meeting, Thompson said he had sent an email out to the council members listing concerns he had about the planning commission meeting.
Cain was given an opportunity to speak before a vote would be taken.
"I take my position seriously," Cain told the council. "What I've encountered and why that meeting happened — there's been ex parte communications since I've been a commissioner."
Cain described an event following the April 5 meeting in which commission chair Rae Lynn Botsford gathered with Public Works Director Gerald Fisher and two planning commissioners to divvy up three liaison appointments between herself and the commissioners. Cain considers that to be an ex parte communication because according to state law, a decision was made without a quorum.
Botsford had admitted in an email to Cain that yes, she had held the discussion. In the email Botsford wrote:
"I do believe Dan wanted to liaison for transportation, as I said, I would take codes and Jim would take waste water. This was just a conversation after the meeting, but you should check with Dan Burck."
Cain has taken that information and similar complaints to the State Government Ethics Commission and was told by them the ethics commission will be investigating.
Cain explained in a nutshell what had taken place during the planning commission meeting in question.
She also discussed what she felt was a conflict of interest for two commissioners, one of whom perhaps owns land the city is proposing to pull inside the Urban Growth Boundary, freeing that land for urban development.
She also made mention of the fact that proposed changes to the development code had been put up on the city website before the planning commission had an opportunity to review the changes.
"This is a disservice to the city of Molalla," she told the council. "This is a legal document that will govern our city. It has to be 100 percent accurate. I am concerned with this lack of transparency. I ask you to not remove me. I take this job very seriously, and I ask for your support tonight."
Councilors give opinions
Councilor Denise Palumbo gave the opinion that "what I heard on the tape was one of our commissioners bringing up a concern, and the chair denying her and then closing the meeting. Regarding truth, I didn't feel that generates openness to the citizens."
Councilor Leota Childress said Cain, as a new commissioner, had "come into this gung ho, and we appreciate that. But I observed a lack of respect for the group and taking over the meeting to say how it should be done." To Thompson, she said, "I will support your actions."
Marilyn Bloch addressed the council as a citizen of Molalla, saying "I don't know Ms. Cain. I was impressed by her presentation, and I support transparency in city affairs. I appreciate Ms. Cain's comments very much. She is new. I say give her a chance - help her get trained. She seems like a valuable person to be serving us."
Councilor Keith Swigart said "I'd like to look at both sides of it. I don't follow anyone blindly."
Councilors Glen Boreth and Cindy Dragowsky both agreed with Swigart and said they would like to get everything Cain had documented before making a decision.
"So I guess I don't have the support," Thompson told the council.
Childress asked if it would be inappropriate to discuss the situation with Rachel Cain.
Thompson answered that yes, it would be appropriate.
"You are more than welcome to have those conversations," Thompson said. "It's not a quasi-judicial decision, so it would not be ex parte."