Ethics complaint against Talent city manager dismissed
A complaint to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission alleging that Talent City Manager Sandra Spelliscy had provided favorable treatment to a member of her household in rental of a building owned by the city’s urban renewal agency has been dismissed.
Commission members did not find cause to proceed with an investigation at their Aug. 7 meeting. Their determination was based on a preliminary report prepared by commission investigator Lisa Christon that recommended dismissal. The report was approved by commission Executive Director Ronald Bersin and reviewed by state Assistant Attorney General Amy Alpaugh.
Talent Urban Renewal Agency interim Director Zac Moody had leased the former TURA office at 102 Home St. to the Rogue Basin Partnership Sept. 19, 2018, at a rate of $400 per month including utilities and other benefits. Spelliscy’s husband, Gregory Weber, signed the agreement as executive director of the organization.
Spelliscy was not named agency executive director until Oct. 3, 2018, although she had some oversight role in agency business as both the interim and then permanent city manager, positions she had held since June 2018.
“I am pleased that the Oregon Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint that was filed against me at the preliminary review stage, without warranting a formal investigation,” Spelliscy wrote in a prepared statement sent to The Mail Tribune. “I am saddened, however, that at a time when public resources are severely strained by the global pandemic, taxpayer dollars were wasted to process this frivolous and completely meritless complaint.”
Talent Planning Commissioner Joi Riley, who brought the complaint in June, expressed disappointment at the decision in a prepared statement.
“The OGEC decision to not decide was based on a report from their investigator who relied upon statements from city staff and hair-splitting legal technicalities,” Riley wrote. “I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. It was clear early on from the way the investigator’s questions were framed that my complaint wasn’t being taken seriously.”
According to written testimony provided by Moody to the commission, he had reviewed the previous lease of the building for $450 per month and determined that $400 was an appropriate rent. Spelliscy was not involved in any of the negotiations, Moody wrote, adding he was unaware that Weber and Spelliscy were married at the time he signed the lease.
Spelliscy stated in written testimony she had no involvement in the lease discussions and negotiations or in setting the rental rate. She noted the city and TURA are separate legal entities.
“There appears to be no substantial, objective basis to believe that violation of Oregon Government Ethics law may have occurred as the result of Ms. Spelliscy’s actions,” the commission review states. “Ms. Spelliscy did not act in official capacity regarding either the lease or the amount of rent for the property at issue.”
Evidence submitted was omitted from the investigator’s report, Riley wrote. That included information on Spelliscy’s legal responsibilities as defined by contracts and TURA bylaws and a commercial appraisal showing an appropriate rental rate $100 higher than charged. The report did include minutes from a TURA board meeting on Spelliscy’s involvement.
“Since her interim appointment, (Spelliscy) has been actively involved in the daily functioning of Urban Renewal, helping to guide staff in both daily tasks (and) tasks related to the Gateway Project,” TURA minutes of the Oct. 3 board meeting state. TURA minutes also showed the Spelliscy was present for board meetings or study sessions Aug. 1, 15 and 22, and Sept. 5 and 19.
Spelliscy was critical of some town residents without identifying them in her statement.
“There are certain individuals in the city who seem to be on a mission to create a hostile environment for city staff; this is both disheartening and puzzling, as the current city staff is exceptionally hardworking and dedicated in its service to the community,” Spelliscy wrote.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at email@example.com.