Mayor says comments outside council chambers have upset city employees

By Lauren Brown
Burns Times-Herald

At the Nov. 23 meeting, Hines Common Council  members aired some frustrations regarding a current councilor and two councilmen-elect who they believed were talking about city matters outside of council chambers.

The discussion centered around whether or not councilmen-elect Dick Baird and Dick Anderson and one Hines councilor had been talking to others in the community about whether or not the council should hire a replacement for City Administrator Pam Mather and Maintenance Supervisor Earl Hofman, who are both retiring in January.
Mayor Ruth Schultz stated that these discussions held in coffee shops around town had gotten back to Hines city employees, who were upset.

Councilor Nikki Morgan said that people have contacted her saying that the councilmen-elect have been telling people that the Hines utility workers are lazy and that they will get rid of one of the three utility workers as well as the city administrator position.

Morgan passed out information regarding maintenance work schedules, saying they work hard year-round whether they are plowing snow or tending to a sewer pipe emergency. “These guys have a right to use vacation and to use their comp time,” she said. “We can’t work them to death.”

Morgan noted that the responsibilities of each city position is outlined clearly in the city charter, and that not hiring a city administrator or utility worker is not an option. “Who is going to take on these duties?” she asked. “Are you going to have a volunteer do it? That’s a major liability.”

Mayor Schultz said that it had come to her attention that a city council member had gone to Burns City Hall to inquire about hiring a city administrator without going through the council. She was upset about this because the city councilor was trying to circumvent the hiring process. “This isn’t decided outside of a council meeting,” she said.

Schultz noted that she has served the city of Hines for eight years and “I’ve never had a council member be this disruptive to city employees.” She said the councilperson in question knew who they were and had been warned numerous times about their behavior. “There should be some retribution for the disruption he has caused city employees,” she said.

The city’s attorney, Steve Finlayson, said that it would be difficult to punish a council member if the mayor won’t name who that person is.

Schultz said she didn’t want to name names at this point, but she went on to remind the council that any discussion, whether it be in person or through e-mail, involving four or more council members outside of an advertised council meeting is an ethics violation.

Councilor Morgan encouraged the disgruntled councilperson to speak their mind. “We need to get this out in the council,” she said. “We need to get this resolved.”

Pedro Zabala, a Hines utility worker, stood up to comment and asked Baird, Anderson and councilor Brent Drury whether they had talked about hiring two or three maintenance workers. All three denied talking about the issue outside of council.

Mayor Schultz said that for the record the council has never discussed cutting a position and said that regardless of who is elected to the council, the city is not going to revamp its structure. “I’m really fed up to the teeth with all of this business,” she said.

Schultz then asked if anyone had any further comments. Upon hearing none, she asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting and the council did just that.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved a resolution accepting the grant of $1,500 from the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police for DUII/seat belt enforcement to be added to the 2010-2011 budget.

At the Nov. 9 Hines Common Council meeting the following business was conducted:

• Police Chief Randy Cook, with the approval of the police commissioners, promoted Officer Ryan DeLange to sergeant. He presented DeLange with his new badge;

• Chief Cook also informed the council that a new reserve officer had been sworn in. His name is Bruce Voges, and he works for the Oregon Youth Authority;

• the council approved a business license for Steens Mountain Outdoors LLC. Applicant Larry Williams stated that the business will be located at 242 Highway 20 S. and he will be doing taxidermy as well as selling flies, fishing tackle, collectibles and art, among other things;

• the council approved a petition to raise a 4-H sheep at 147 N. Newport. The petitioner had gotten approval from everyone living around the residence;

• the council approved a $100 donation to the Harney County Hospice for the Wine and Food Festival.

The next Hines Common Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Hines City Hall.

2 Responses to “Hines probes possible ethics violations”

  1. D.G. LOWN Says:

    The story raises as many questions as it gives information. It appears tattle tale Nikki Morgan has been taking secong hand information from other people and repeating it as truth.
    As far as Baird and Anderson goes, they are not even members of the council till January. So, if they are newly elected it would be natural for them to listen to what members of the Hines community have to say about what they would like to see come about in the future. Just because someone was listening behind their back doesn’t make it wrong.
    Regardless as to what the mayor said,” regardless of who is elected to the council, the city is not going to revamp its structure.” I had always thought new menbers were always voted in with the hopes that things might be changed for the better.
    Also, with the new budget cuts coming at all levels there maybe changes no matter what the mayor has to say, or the employees.
    It just seems some one is stirring the pot well before the new council takes their lawful seats.

  2. Rochelle Says:

    I agree with the first comment, there definitely seems to be fear of change. Change is good, especially if more people benefit. Budget cuts are one way to temporarily improve work ethics, but even if they do decide to ‘demote’ or lay-off a maintenance worker – so be it. It is a wonder that they find fault in one employees work, yet have the money to promote another (DeLange). Hmm…favoritism and ‘who you know’ lacks to show the integrity of past (or future) councilmen. Get it right the first time and your choices are few and far between when it comes to ‘change’. Good luck.

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