At the March 4 Manzanita City Council meeting, Councilor Nuttall cited a Facebook post from last summer that confirmed in his mind that the allegation made by Mayor Scott that I “threatened to sue the City over the Budget” was indeed proven and a legitimate reason to not appoint me to the Budget Committee.
Some context to the quote is in order. I did have conversations with citizens who asked my advice on possible legal action if necessary regarding the City’s misallocation of Water Fund revenue to pay the salaries of City Hall managers. I said that I would obtain the contact information of the City Attorney and would be willing to meet with an attorney to answer questions if that would be helpful. As I have clearly established in things that I have written and said over these many months, I would prefer to continue to encourage citizens to attend meetings, ask their question of our Council to get answers and apply for Committee openings to effect the change that they desire within the framework of our local governmental system.
The result of these conversations with other citizens was the following: There was no contact with the City Attorney, no contact with any private attorney, no filing of the required notice of intent to bring a lawsuit against the City or the City’s insurance carrier and no further conversations on my part with anyone on the matter since last summer. In the interest of full disclosure, I have also been approached by citizens interested in starting a recall of City Councilors. I have told them I will not support nor participate in any recall efforts. I state this now lest I somehow next be accused of “threatening” City Councilors if some future recall action is undertaken.
If there is any wonder as to why citizens have been moved to consider exercising their right to investigate bringing legal action against the City as a last resort to force corrective action, look no further than the response of this mayor and council. Citizens are allowed 3 minutes once each month to come before their elected representatives to bring up issues that they would like to have answers to. The Mayor decides how many citizens he wants to hear from, puts them on a timer for 3 minutes and reminds them at the conclusion of asking their questions that this time has not been established to answer any of their questions. We are told this must be done to insure that the Council has enough time to get everything done on their agenda.
In the case of my interest in being appointed to the budget committee and working with the city to find solutions to this budget issue, the mayor determined that my application form was not filled out to his satisfaction, I lacked proper qualifications for the position, I threatened Budget Committee members who would not now serve with me, I had intentionally mislead him regarding a question he asked me and then he subsequently thanked me for correcting my answer and the City Attorney had somehow advised him that my appointment would not be appropriate.
There is a strategic reason why the city would attempt to create this threatening to sue narrative. A very broad restriction to deny myself or other citizens access to or receive answers about any City communications, letters, conversations etc. on this subject can now be imposed under the guise of the need to protect potential evidence that might become relevant to any possible future legal action brought against the City.
Councilor Nuttall could not have been more honest when at the conclusion of reading the post in question he stated that he felt the City had been threatened. Councilor Nuttall and the Mayor seem to believe it is their duty to be vigilant in protecting the Council from such threats, especially if it involves their decisions being questioned.
My question to Manzanita citizens is this: What is more of a concern to you? Citizens who engage in open community discussions involving their elected officials and their actions including the consideration of their right to pursue legal remedies to address grievances or City officials who unilaterally determine what and who constitute a threat to their governance? If engaging in community dialogue that results in not taking any tangible actions is the standard that allows individuals to be labeled as threats and grounds for exclusion to participate on a City Committee or get answers to questions, then we have a serious problem.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have been consistent in wanting to work with the city and find appropriate solutions to this Budget issue and avoid any further dissention including further participation with others in any legal action against the City. What Councilor Nuttall and the Mayor see as a threat, I see as constructive civic engagement to force if necessary, accountability of our elected officials. My concluding statement for the post in question summarizes what I and others were attempting to achieve. “We are seeking a resolution; I wish the Council would be similarly inclined to resolve this”.
As a practical matter, the issues with our city will need to resolved this November at the ballot box when you will get to select a new mayor and two new Councilors. Continue to stay engaged, attend meetings and ask your questions, apply for Committee openings and consider if you would be willing to be a candidate for City Council.
Randy Kugler is a former Manzanita City Manager.