Sherwood City Council Illegal Meetings

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Claim: Sally Robinsons stated in her resignation letter that “Council can't even convene a meeting without an Agenda, a Mayor or a Council President” for that reason she went on to say that council cannot hold any meetings until after an election for a new Mayor is certified  in March of 2018.  


Discussion:

Immediately after the resignations of former Mayor Clark-Endicott and former Council President Harris, Sally Robinson claimed that any city council meeting would be illegal. “Council can't even convene a meeting without an Agenda, a Mayor or a Council President” she said in her resignation letter.  She also went on to say that council cannot hold any meetings until after an election is certified in March and a new mayor is elected.

City Councilor Sally Robinson, along with Council President Jennifer Harris and Mayor Krisanna Clark-Endicott were the focus of a recall effort due to financial irresponsibility, and disregarding the will of the people.  Clark-Endicott resigned, rather than face a Recall election, on October 2nd, 2017 after  enough recall petitions to support a citywide vote were certified by Washington County on September 27th, 2017.  Harris and Robinson chose to face a recall election, which they lost in a landslide vote.  Council President Jennifer Harris resigned on October 19th, before official certification of the election results by the County. This left the Council without a Mayor or a council president.

Robinson's resignation letter stated that any council meeting would be illegal until a new mayor is elected in March. Robinson further claimed  a meeting cannot be convened without a Mayor or President, and an agenda, and only the Mayor or the President can approve an agenda.

Robinson claims rest on the contention that the City Council Rules require that only the Mayor or President can prepare an agenda:

Section D, paragraph 2 states: "The Mayor, in consultation with the City Council President and City Manager, shall prepare the agenda for City Council meetings."

Because the City Council Rules are silent on what to do if there is no Mayor or President, Robinson is claiming that an agenda cannot be created,  therefore a meeting cannot be held.

The claim falls apart because the city charter contemplates what to do if there is no Mayor or President. Since the City Charter is the governing document and takes precedence over the council rules, the fact that the council rules are silent on how to create an agenda in the absence of a Mayor or President is not relevant

For background, an understanding of the relationship between Oregon Public Records Law, the City Charter, and the City Council Rules is essential. Oregon Public Meeting Laws define how meetings are initiated and conducted. These laws are enacted by the City Charter and detailed in the City Council Rules. The City Council Rules cannot violate the City Charter, and the City Charter cannot violate Oregon Public Meeting Law.

Oregon Public Meeting law does require an  "Agenda" to be part of the Public Notice requirement to conduct a meeting.

ORS 192.640 requires that the governing body (Council in this case) gives "Public Notice" of the meeting with "list of the principal subjects anticipated to be considered at the meeting."

The City Charter gives clear authority to a majority of the council to create a "List of Principal subjects anticipated to be considered at the meeting" otherwise known as an Agenda.

Chapter III Section 7 of the City Charter states "A majority of the council may cause an item to be added to the agenda of a future meeting. "

In this case four of the five council members, a majority (Councilors Garland, Griffin, Kuiper & Young) requested that an item to elect a new president be placed on the agenda.

Additionally, it would have been a violation of the charter to not have meetings between October and March, the City Charter requires that the council conduct regular meetings at least once a month:

Chapter III, Section 11 states: "The Council must meet at least once a month at a time and place designated by its rules, and may meet at other times in accordance with council rules."

The City Council Rules specifically give authority to a majority of the council, to call a special meeting of the Council, this authority does not require approval by the Mayor or the President.

Section C, paragraph 3 of the City Council Rules states that: "Special Meetings may be called by the Mayor, Council President in the absence of the Mayor or by a majority of the Council."

In the case of the October 31st, 2017 Meeting, a majority of the council members requested the meeting (Councilors Garland, Griffin, Kuiper & Young).

Finally the Charter specficaly states that only a quorum is required to conduct business, The Mayor and/or President is not required to conduct business.

Section C, paragraph 12 of the City Council Rules states that: A majority of the council members is a quorum to conduct business, but a smaller number may meet and compel attendance of absent members as prescribed by council rules.

Summary:

The claim that the October 31st meeting was illegal is false.

The claim that any meetings conducted by the council before certification of a March election are false.

The claim that only the Mayor or the President can create an agenda to meet the Public Notice requirements is false.

The claim that a Mayor or a President is required to hold a meeting is False

In fact, contrary to Robinson's claims, the city charter requires that the council meet at least once a month.


Conclusion:

Sally Robinson's claims are not consistent with Public Meeting Law, the City Charter, and the Council Rules. The process that city used to call a special meeting and elect a new president was appropriate and consistent with the city charter and public meeting law.