CL Council takes issue with Seeger agreement

Jan. 5, 2011

With Bernard Seeger as the focal point, Cascade Locks City Council, with a new mayor and three new council members, decided Monday to continue its meeting to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4.

Seeger, the city administrator for the past four years, indicated Tuesday morning that he is the subject of the ongoing executive session discussion pertaining to his separation agreement approved Dec. 30 by the previous city council.

Two citizens spoke out Monday against the separation agreement, under which Seeger is scheduled to step down Jan. 31 and receive three months' severance pay totaling $18,000.

Cody Steelman and Sandra Kelley said the council acted prematurely and illegally in approving the separation agreement drawn up by attorney Andy Jones.

Executive sessions are closed to the public, and while the media may observe it cannot report on the proceedings.

Council, guided by its new mayor, George Fischer, called executive session Monday to discuss employee discipline or dismissal and potential litigation.

The council will convene Jan. 4 in open session, and move into executive session unless Seeger asks it not to.

Contacted Tuesday, Seeger said "That's my assumption," when asked if his separation agreement was the closed-session topic.

Seeger was present for the regular meeting, attended by about 40 citizens, and the council asked him to leave the room for the executive session, which lasted about a half-hour.

Seeger said Tuesday that in accordance with state law, the council gave him the choice of whether or not the disciplinary matter will be discussed in open session.

Seeger said he is conferring with his attorneys on the issue and would decide before tonight's meeting at city hall.

"The record would be clear to the public (if held in open session)," Seeger said. "I don't think I've done anything wrong in negotiating a separation agreement. If you do it in executive session, there's a lot of things people can make up about what happens. This way (in open session) there would be less room for innuendos and half-truths."

The agreement reached was a revised one that gave Seeger one fewer month severance than he had asked for, and denied his request for accrued vacation.

The agreement was approved Dec. 30 by a vote of 4-3, with former councilors Randy Holmstrom and Kerry Jo Osbourn voting for it, along with former Mayor Brad Lorang, and Councilor Lance Masters. It was the last meeting for Lorang, Holmstrom and Osbourn.

"This thing stinks. It is not the way cities do business," Steelman said.

Kelley praised returning councilors Kevin Benson and Tiffany Pruit for voting against the agreement. Kelley said Jones' contact with Seeger on the matter before conferring with City Council was "an obvious breach of fiduciary duty" and called for Masters' resignation.

At that point, Fischer interrupted Kelley, telling her, "Please do not point out a particular council member. We are a council, and you need to address us as a council and not make personal attacks."

Fischer took the oath of office Monday, along with newly elected councilors Don Haight, Eva Zerfing and Tom Cramblett. (Cramblett is back for his second stint on council.) Justice of the Peace Cindy Mitchell administered the oath.

Tiffany Pruit was unanimously voted council president.

Later in the meeting, under Mayor's report, Fischer presented a one-page document lining out a vision, mission statement, and "rules of council" for his fellow elected officials to consider. He called it "a first take." Fischer asked if any councilors had comments on the document, and none was made.

The proposed vision statement reads, in part: "I believe the vision for the community of Cascade Locks should show that we the council is here to serve the community with courtesy, respect and professionalism at all times. Cascade Locks will be a safe, vibrant, full-service community. Cascade Locks will be a community of unity, pride and charm."

The proposed mission statement states that the city "is dedicated to providing excellent municipal services that will enhance the quality of life for our diverse community."

Proposed council rules include: "Choose to do what is right, just and moral at all times" and "Be responsible for your acts and omissions."

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