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Jacksonville city officials removed from mine lawsuit

JACKSONVILLE - City Council members, the mayor and city administrator are no longer named in a $50 million lawsuit involving the Opp Mine near Jacksonville.

Bob Robertson, attorney for the mine's owners, agreed to remove their names as defendants, while the city of Jacksonville agreed to not seek reimbursement for attorney fees.

"We voluntarily agreed to dismiss the city of Jacksonville and the City Council so we could narrow our focus," Robertson said.

Robertson filed the lawsuit in December, alleging that Jackson County, the city of Jacksonville, council members, the mayor and the city administrator devalued the Opp Mine property when the county denied a conditional use permit to mine aggregate. The city had opposed the mining operation, which is partly owned by Robertson.

City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen told council members when the lawsuit was filed that Oregon law protects them from legal reactions to their decisions.

"When they are acting within the duties of their office they are protected as individuals," he said in a recent interview. "When they are acting on a policy level - and this is a policy level - they are absolved as individuals."

In other developments in the lawsuit, Opp Mine property owner Frank Hardin hired Medford attorney Thad Guyer to be the "attorney of record." Robertson will likely have to testify if the case goes to court, something an attorney of record can't legally do, he said.

"Bob is still representing us, but he can't be a witness and attorney of record both," Hardin said.

It's likely Robertson would testify in the case because of the way the facts have been presented so far, said Jackson County Counsel Mike Jewett.

"He's going to have to be a witness," Jewett said.

Robertson said hiring another attorney was inevitable.

"I knew this would have to happen eventually since I'm a potential witness," he said.