SHADY COVE — Thursday's City Council session was filled with drama: accusations of a cover-up, questions over the public release of confidential legal documents and a councilman's accusation that the city administrator was insubordinate.
The meeting began with City Administrator Danise Brakeman reading a statement rebutting an accusation made by Councilor Leith Hayes.
Hayes alleged Brakeman had incorrectly stated audio recordings of budget committee meetings had never been posted on the city website. Hayes is the owner of Rivertech Computer Services, the Shady Cove company that maintains the city's website.
At the previous council meeting, Hayes cited Rivertech invoices that he said showed the budget committee audios had been posted and argued that they should be posted this year.
Brakeman said her inquiry into the issue showed that budget committee audios had never been posted. Brakeman said she had requested copies of invoices from Rivertech "and verified that there was not one budget committee audio being uploaded to our website."
She said the invoices Hayes referred to were related to mid-year budget reviews and workshops, relatively short meetings, as opposed to the budget committee meetings, which are several hours long.
She also chided Hayes for his accusation and suggested that he should refrain from discussing the website issue since he stood to gain financially from the work involved.
"If you had brought your concerns to me," she said, "along with your invoices, we could have looked at them together and resolved the issue without public embarrassment."
"I have no intention of uploading the budget audio unless the council feels it would be in the city's best interest to do so," Brakeman said. "If that is the case, I would advise you to abstain from that discussion. As the owner of Rivertech "… you would directly benefit by this decision, constituting an actual conflict of interest."
Hayes replied that he had many emails he believed showed Brakeman had been disrespectful and insubordinate to him, most recently when he requested an audio copy of the budget meeting and was charged $5 for a CD copy.
He asked for an executive session to formally reprimand Brakeman and also suggested that opinions from the city's attorney may be prepared with the intent of supporting the city administrator's position on issues.
Brakeman denied the accusation and cautioned Hayes "against making flippant accusations, such as this, that are damaging to me, both personally and professionally."
Mayor Ron Holthusen said that although he had received a legal opinion that justified charging Hayes for the CD, he felt it would have been better not to charge him.
"I believe it was an error," Hayes said, "and I believe if you (Brakeman) would actually apologize to me for it, I'd drop the whole thing, but I don't think you're the kind of person who apologizes."
"I'm sorry, Leith," Brakeman interrupted, "I am that kind of person. I apologize."
Hayes and Councilor Gary Hughes both expressed concern over city attorney fees incurred when Brakeman seeks legal advice, said they believed the confidential details of what the attorney decides should be made available to the public.
"I believe this is a cover-up," Hayes said.
Brakeman said the information was available to council members, but the legal documents are protected from public disclosure by public records laws.
Hayes and Hughes said they were most concerned about legal advice provided and paid for by the city to a company interested in purchase of the private Waterworks water system and a rumored monetary agreement between a former employee and the city.
Not without opposition, the council directed Brakeman to schedule two executive sessions to discuss the attorney-related issues. No date was set for sessions.
"I think this is getting ridiculous," said Councilor Bill Kyle, the sole vote against the sessions.
Councilor Jim Ulrich agreed.
"I think it's much to do about nothing," he said. "But I think it is a major sticking point with this council, and for that reason I think it is important that we look into it.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.