The Forum: Council correspondence – An open letter to Council and Citizens

November 2009 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Web master’s note: This letter was received past Our Town’s press deadline and is not in the November 1, 2009 print edition.

Mayor Schiedler and Council:

I congratulate you for your published efforts to “move forward.”  However, your public is not aware of what truly occurred in the past, and this is only a thumbnail sketch of your actions. Perhaps the public should read the depositions that contradict and reveal the truth of Mayor Schiedler’s, Donohue’s and Eder’s efforts to conceal what really happened in my office on January 11, 2008 – only days after I started my job. After all, according to your outside attorney and your many public statements you came to “introduce yourselves, discuss a little city history, and give me some direction.” Is that not correct? (Mt Angel citizens: See Donohue, Eder, Schiedler, Hunt deposition testimony) The city’s contract with me stipulated a policy of non-interference as well as a policy of “good faith.” It appears you breeched the contract in ignorance and/or without conscience. What is most disturbing to others, and me, is the fact Mayor Schiedler, Councilor Donohue and possibly Eder only recently discovered through the deposition process that the City’s Administrator is actually a fully authorized City Manager. I have to guess the rest of the current council did not know either. Councilor Donohue, despite his many years of service on the council, in deposition testimony struggled and ultimately couldn’t define the word “consensus.”  Did the city’s councilors not know what form of municipal government they swore an oath to uphold? How could they effectively (legally?) follow the City Code, Council Rules and Oregon Statutes without that critical kernel of information? You could not, and yet, you swore an oath to do so.  I was fired by people only weeks into their new positions that didn’t know me or know my official/contracted responsibilities to the city. To whom did they turn for advice?

In my six month employee evaluation, Schielder’s and Donohue’s reviews were nearly identical and highly negative.  I still firmly believe this was because I did not “listen” to them on January 11, 2008 and fire staff members.  In my evaluation, Donohue attacked me because I did not give him documents upon his demand. He wanted to access an employee’s personnel file. I consulted the city attorney and told him no. I asked him to fill out a records request as part of his request did not pertain to current or future city business. He did not. He filed a complaint with the district attorney. My contract with the city clearly stated my evaluation must be “objective, specific, and positive in nature.” Donohue’s and Schiedler’s clearly were not. This was a breech of my contract. (See: Donohue and Schiedler deposition testimony) Donohue accused me of not attending a mandatory council meeting at which my evaluation was to be part of the meeting. My father was ill at the time and I informed Mayor Bauman in advance I had to travel out of town. I told him I would try to attend the meeting dependent on my arrival time back in Mt. Angel. This is in the city’s minutes, but Donohue (and others) continued to use this as part of the excuse for firing me. Remarkably, a month later, Donohue was marked for an unexcused absence at the next council meeting. It was during this meeting that my evaluation was discussed. The public never did hear his explanation for his evaluation that violated my contract’s “objective, specific, and positive in nature” provisions.

After a failed attempt to fire me in August of 2008, Donohue, Eder and Schiedler, published an article as councilors in the Silverton Appeal-Tribune in an attempt to salvage their position and credibility by asserting they had done nothing wrong. Even their wives intervened on their behalf and had interview/article published in Mt. Angel Publishing’s local newspaper. One said, “My husband could never lie.” I suggest she read the depositions and re-evaluate that comment. This article defamed Chief Earhart and me by quoting statements that NEVER took place. It also violated Mt. Angel Resolution 1056-Council Rules: “…councilors shall abide by all decisions of the council.” They violated the very City of Mt. Angel Resolution they personally approved. You swore an oath to uphold local ordinances and Oregon State laws. You violated your oath. Who will hold you accountable?

Last fall, councilors Donohue, Eder, and Schiedler were publicly advised by city attorney Chris Crean, as to how the city could stop paying for an attorney I had retained.  This attorney was hired to protect me from the three councilors and the City of Mt. Angel paid for my protection. The city attorney advised them to make a written or public statement that they were no longer pursuing me, and that would end it. You ignored the city attorney’s advice. (See page 68 of Schiedler deposition; Hunt vs. City of Mt. Angel) Your decision to ignore the attorney cost the city thousands and thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees. It appears obvious; you placed your unspoken personal agenda above the city’s best interest and welfare. It is the attorney’s responsibility to protect the city.  You forced the city to spend funds against the city attorney’s advice.

After the election in 2008, Councilors Donohue, Beyer, and Grassman made requests for identical information from city staff. These requests were some councilor’s basis for firing me-that I somehow ignored them. City staff had been overloaded with deadlines, regular city business, and records requests. I made a request to the council for assistance and asked the councilors-elect for some patience while staff and I answered as many questions as possible. In December of ’08 the records requests (5 or 6) submitted by Donohue’s neighbor and friend, Marla Boen, added to the stressful situation. The city attorney was consulted over the nature and content of the requests. This is documented in a massive email string. Mayor Schiedler admitted in testimony he did nothing to reduce the burden placed on staff. (Page 51, Schiedler deposition) During this period councilors Donohue, Eder and Schielder wanted to share confidential city information to councilors-elect before they had been sworn in. Some of this information was related to ethics complaint that was filed against Schiedler. Of note, Schiedler waffled in public as to whether or not the transcript he wanted was for his ethics complaint. Over my objection in council, Schiedler moved to authorize the city pay for his comments to be transcribed and Eder seconded the motion. At least to me, that was one unseemly moment. All three sent email demands and argued for information to be released to the councilors-elect. I contacted the city attorney and he rightfully intervened. Some time later Mayor Schiedler Plead guilty and paid a fine for his Oregon Ethics violations. As far as I can tell, Mayor Schiedler is the only mayor in Oregon that sits in office after pleading guilty to an ethics violation. I would have resigned out of embarrassment.

At the February 2, 2009 council meeting, Mayor Schiedler, citing (blaming) “city attorney advice” changed the executive session agenda.  He dropped ORS 192.660 (b) which would have allowed me to have complaints against me to be heard in public. This is mandated by the Oregon Legislature so the public can witness their government at work and not hide the decision process behind closed doors. Ignoring the law, you, the council met instead unlawfully in an executive session under ORS 192.660 (f) to discuss a “memo” the city attorney had created that was not subject to public disclosure. In doing so, the council deprived the citizens and me of our rights and violated Oregon Statutes.  Mayor Schieldler admitted in testimony he deprived me of my (and thereby the public’s) right to attend the meeting and acknowledged it was a violation. (Page 61-63 Schiedler deposition)  The council met in executive session under false pretenses and council as a whole is guilty of violating ORS 192.660 (b) and ORS 192.660 (f). The council violated their oaths of office and according to Mayor Schielder, the city attorney advised him/them to do so. Didn’t this occur AFTER the League of Oregon Cities provided training for you, the council?  You came back into session and the mayor placed me on administrative leave. Mayor Schiedler blamed the city attorney in his testimony. Why is the attorney always your scapegoat? You were elected to lead. You, the council, violated your oaths of office.

Councilor Beyer said in his hearing testimony he voted to fire me because he did not like the tone of two of my emails. I had answered his questions and invited him on a tour of the Public Works facilities.  He never responded back to me.  He said in testimony he was upset about my email to Kelly Grassman and council that warned council as a whole about interfering with an ongoing police investigation. This warning came straight to me from Chief Earhart. It appears Beyer had two good reason to fire me. Beyer admitted in the testimony he never addressed his concerns to me (or via the mayor) as required in my employment contract.

On February 17, 2009, Mayor Schielder sent me a letter terminating me. He did so without “council consent” as demanded by the City Charter.   This is a violation of the City Charter and his oath of office.  He had the council “ratify” his actions the next month. The Mt. Angel City Charter does not provide for this action. Curiously, I remember reading Mayor Schielder’s news comment that he felt the government training/education classes were “beneficial to council.” This government training session specifically addressed ethics issues and the Mt. Angel City Charter. Mayor Schiedler, you and the council violated your oaths of office and the Mt. angel City Charter.

After my termination, you, the council, decided to challenge the validity of Chief Earhart’s and Tracy Grambusch’s employment contracts.  I evaluated these fine employees and recognized the value they brought to the city, and extended their contracts accordingly. Mayor Schiedler’s and Donohue’s deposition testimony clearly demonstrated their lack of knowledge regarding their roles as policy makers, and demonstrates their difficulty in understanding the role of the city manager/administrator. The contracts are legal and binding. Why are you as a council striving to renegotiate them? Is the public aware of your efforts? Has this issue been discussed in an executive session? Did an open meeting’s law violation occur? Did you order Pete Wall to do this? Is this part of the continued effort by Donohue to reach his old goal of cleaning up city hall by firing anyone who has somehow slighted his will or demands?

Why does Pete Wall’s contract contradict the City Charter and the Amendments regarding city administrator authority? How can the council demand the right of approval regarding discipline, hiring and firing? The Charter’s Amendment states the Administrator hires and fires the Chief and Finance Director – not the council. If so, you have violated your oaths of office, again. The City Charter is the bedrock law of the city, not just some old rules that interfere with your micromanagement agenda.

The questions now for citizens of Mt. Angel are these: Are you, the council, qualified to recruit a city administrator to Mt. Angel? Is the city so poor it cannot hire a search firm? Are you going to fairly inform a candidate there have been approximately eight or nine fulltime and interim administrators here in the last fourteen years?  Will you, the council, inform candidates the one person that has had a hand in dismissing at least four prior administrators, Michael Donohue, is still a councilor? Will they hear about his contact and experience with the many other administrators he ran out of town? Could it be the council is not contracting with an entity to find a candidate is because they are looking for a figurehead? Perhaps puppet is a better word. I recommend FULL DISCLOSURE regarding council’s (Donohue’s) history with administrators.

My advice to the next administrator is to negotiate the ICMA standard of six months’ severance and rent your living quarters out of town. For at the very least, it will reduce the likelihood of certain council supporters vandalizing your personal property. Moreover, if this council fires you, you will not lose your investment in a home.

Mayor Schiedler: You, Donohue, Eder, your wives, friends, and Teresa Kintz have done a good job to financially and physically devastate my family and me. You have all but destroyed my slimmest hope of finding another job by harassing and defaming me with your unfounded allegations. Your quaint, “don’t ask questions or challenge the leadership” for newcomers to Mt. Angel is disturbing, and effectively destructive to those who do not submit to you.

This is an abbreviated version of my experience with Donohue, Eder, and Schiedler. Dave Trapp has filed a well documented complaint with the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.  The complaint alleges your actions have placed the city taxpayers at risk. The complaint accurately details the many and various violations of this council. The complaint’s evidence clearly documents your words and action as a council.

Shame on all of you,
Jim Hunt

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