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Protect the public in public

Phoenix must address police issue while obeying the open meetings law

Police protection would almost certainly rank at or near the top of the list of services supported by the public. That's one of many reasons the public should not have been excluded from the city of Phoenix's action to turn its police department over to the county sheriff.

We understand that the department was in disarray after the arrest of its chief, but that does not open the door to the city officials ' or the sheriff ' to bypass state public meetings laws, which is exactly what they did last week.

The issue arose when Phoenix Police Chief Bob Kershaw was arrested March 28 for tampering with evidence in a case involving his son. The next day he resigned. In the midst of that, the Phoenix City Council met in an executive session during which control of the police department apparently was handed over to Sheriff Mike Winters.

Winters then took the city's officers off duty for several days while his department investigated whether they were adequately trained. The police duties were taken over by sheriff's deputies and Talent police officers in the interim.

Again, we are not questioning the need to review the department and its officers. Given the circumstances, that may have been the prudent thing to do.

But somewhere along the way, the sheriff was put in charge of the department and the police department employees temporarily put on leave. There is no record that the City Council took any formal action on either item, but clearly Winters did not seize control of the department, so a vote was taken or at least a decision reached.

— If that was not done in public it was a violation of Oregon's public meetings law, which clearly states, No executive session may be held for the purpose of taking any final action or making any final decision.

The council has an obligation to its citizens to ensure the city provides a quality police department. It also has an obligation to follow the state law on public meetings.

Read the book Is it your dream to own acreage? A piece of nature to call your own, with a pristine view and elbow room, a fantasy escape from hectic town or city life? If you're one of the folks looking to live rural you should also be one of the folks to pick up the new 28-page Jackson County Rural Living Handbook, a Resource for Country Living and Land Stewardship.

As usual, fantasy does not always translate neatly into reality, and that is what the county handbook is all about. Owning rural land can have drawbacks concerning water rights, responsibility for shared fences, property lines that do not necessarily coincide with fence lines, fire setbacks, grazing rights and garbage service, to name a few.

The handbook is offered as a public service to educate potential buyers and to help answer questions about land stewardship for those already living in the country. The book is available free at most libraries, local feed stores, the OSU extension office, the Jackson County Planning Department and the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District office.

Some say let the buyer beware. We say let the buyer be informed. If owning a piece of nature is your dream, don't let it become your nightmare; make sure you get a copy of the handbook, read it carefully and check out the facts before you buy.