When a special session of Ashland City Council went into overtime on Tuesday, Councilor Paula Hyatt urged the mayor and councilors to “purge the air” at risk of irreparable damage to the city they are both responsible for becomes.
“What I see is a group, not a team. We don’t thrive, there is no trust, and we have to deal with it if we are to become a team as a group, ”said Hyatt. “I have a strong feeling that the seven of us had to talk to each other and we can’t talk privately. We have to hold these discussions publicly – that’s the only way to do it.
Hyatt said recent events in the city require recognition and further discussion in order for the city to get the job done.
Mayor Julie Akins said the special meeting felt more like “licking blood”.
The city council held a special session to discuss the process for the appointment of an interim city manager and a finance director.
Hanks said the process must respect a distinction between the desired elements of normal recruitment and timely, temporary placement.
A staff-led search that relies on peer networking and liaising with companies with interim placement services has already begun, along with coordination between staff and the mayor’s office to make a shortlist of candidates for interim creation, said Hanks.
“The candidates will probably interview us and all of you as often as we do them, and that’s a good thing because we’re looking for a match that fits the current situation,” said Hanks. “What we need from an operational point of view and what the Council needs from an administrative and political point of view must be combined with what potentially interested candidates consider to be well suited.”
Hanks said once the list is narrowed down, staff will seek broad council support for the selected candidate.
“A controversial appointment could prove to be really challenging,” said Hanks.
Employees will pursue alternative management service options such as: B. hiring a company for multiple services rather than appointing individuals, although Hanks said the idea will prove unlikely.
When Hanks took on the interim city manager role, he kept almost all of the assistant city manager duties and some duties from other previous positions, he said. Certain responsibilities need to be reassigned to other department heads so the interim city manager can focus on urgent tasks – some of these transitions are natural and timely, he said.
The interim city manager position will last at least six months, with a target of eight to twelve months and some overlap between the interim and permanent candidate. The interim finance director will serve for five to eight months.
The target date for approval of mayor appointments for both positions by the city council is August 3, Hanks said.
City Attorney David Lohman said filling interim positions as part of this process has worked well for the city in the past. After Martha Bennett left the city administrator position, staff identified a qualified candidate to temporarily fill the position and the placement was successfully completed, Hanks said.
“You won’t find the perfect candidate because you don’t have time to find the perfect candidate and make sure everyone is on board,” Lohman said. “You just have to grab someone who can do the job and move on when the final decision about the permanent job has been made.”
Akins said a longer-term interim appointment could allow the council to take more time to find the ideal permanent candidate.
“I don’t want to rush into panic and try to fill the position permanently because our interim is running out,” said Akins.
Hyatt added the discussion of the Code of Conduct to the agenda in response to requests for information from community members to back up allegations in local media referring to Akins and councilors Shaun Moran and Gina DuQuenne and their alleged roles in recent government resignations Respectively.
According to the code, alleged violations should be addressed “timely and publicly,” she said. Hyatt invited councilors Stephen Jensen and Tonya Graham to speak on their statements.
“I didn’t speak wrong, I didn’t exaggerate,” said Jensen. “My testimony was intentional and absolutely necessary given the loss of an outstanding candidate for the fire service, the unprecedented retreat of two renowned recruitment companies, and the resignation of the top three administrators in our city. To be silent while our city staggered under this burden would have been a breach of duty and would have made my position as councilor and community elder of Ashland a mockery. “
Jensen provided a prepared statement and read emails and social media posts on the file, which he described as “hard evidence” of his claims that employees suffered personal assault and dishonesty by elected officials who resigned from three department heads culminated.
For a detailed description of each example, see Graham’s Council Blog at
Graham said she believes Akins and Moran’s behavior towards employees puts the city at “great risk of losing its ability to provide critical public safety and essential services that our residents and businesses need”.
Graham cited Moran’s earlier remarks to Hanks, Treasury Director Melanie Purcell and Public Works Director Scott Fleury, alleged misdescriptions of the city budget and repeated proposals to cut employee salaries as examples of disrespectful employees and “attacking their livelihoods.” Graham said Akins’ typical response to a difference in perspective was to accuse councilors of lying.
“In retrospect, it would have been better if the structural problems of certain expenses increasing faster than our tax base can keep pace with them had been addressed earlier,” said Graham, adding that management has regularly recognized the need for that address the city’s financial situation within the next 18 months.
“I believe the bad behavior of some of our elected officials encourages the overly hostile and aggressive behavior of some of our residents,” said Graham. “It is absolutely possible to say pointed things to the council and the staff while at the same time being polite.”
Jensen shared how two professional recruitment firms withdrew their contracts to find city managers. The second firm selected, headed by Wendi Brown, withdrew from the recruitment process “because of personal attacks on them and their employees by the mayor and two councilors,” he said.
According to an email from Wendi Brown to Graham, Akins sent a “damning email” in which HR director Tina Gray was responsible for Brown’s resignation from the city contract.
“In that email, the mayor also told her that I told the mayor things about Tina that I never said,” Brown wrote. “The mayor was the person who was rude, disrespectful, didn’t return calls, missed and repeated meetings.”
Brown wrote that Akins questioned her ethics and eventually “required” her to change the minimum qualifications for the city manager position after recruiting information already approved by the council was released. Akins requested changes to the hiring information that would require three to five years of city management experience, and Moran wanted at least five years, she said.
Brown acknowledged that such a change would require council approval and called for a special session to clarify minimum qualifications.
“The mayor ignored my request and insisted that we had the full approval of the council and sent me a video for review that was supposed to provide this clarification that I could not open,” wrote Wendi Brown. “The mayor insisted that I change the minimum qualifications, as did Councilor Moran. … That was the last of many factors that made it impossible for me to be successful. “
Jensen said the examples showed a clear pattern of “abuse of employees, marginalization of the will of the council, direct interference in a critical recruiting process and ultimately foiling another critical” decision by the council.
“With this undeniable track record, I hope to get our constituents to stand up and demand immediate changes in the elected leadership of the city of Ashland,” said Jensen.
Claiming she did her job properly and offered a fair representation of her positions in various email messages, Akins said Lohman’s decisions about retirement were his own. Akins characterized Jensen’s statements as “bullshit” and the account of Wendi Brown’s interaction with her as “complete fiction”.
Moran said that Jensen’s statements “have no basis”.
Moran called for a public apology from Graham and Jensen for allegedly violating the council’s code of conduct and calling council members direct.
Hyatt has decided to suspend the meeting rules in order to go beyond the scheduled special meeting time. Assistant City Attorney Katrina Brown ruled that the council can set deadlines for meetings and that Hyatt’s motion requires a vote. The motion to extend the session was passed 4-2, with DuQuenne and Moran voting no. Akins disagreed with the ruling, which allowed the special session to continue after 6:30 p.m.
“I should have just given up when it got so nonsense,” Akins said to Jensen. “You are 100% wrong, you have violated the code of conduct and should confess your behavior like an adult.”
DuQuenne said she had concerns about the objectivity of Tina Gray’s role in hiring her boss (the city manager) and confirmed that she publicly apologized for any personal insults she caused.
Councilor Stefani Seffinger highlighted questions of trust among council members who have shaped numerous council discussions since the body was first convened, she said. City councils pushing for a masters degree and high level of experience as the minimum requirement for the city manager position effectively removed all internal staff from the running, she said.
Akins dismissed Graham and Jensen’s statements as speculative and said she had the right to speak publicly about her concerns.
Graham said she checked with the Department of Professional Surveying at Southern Oregon University to find out what it takes to conduct a confidential survey of city officials and hear their concerns directly. The survey would cost an estimated $ 6,000, she said.
Akins ended the special session without a vote and called the session to adjourn. Some council members stayed on the live screen, and Hanks indicated that they could not meet without a quorum. No further factual discussion took place.
Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at [email protected] or 541-776-4497.