Winlock council addresses Public Works hiring process dispute

By Lynnette Hoffman

The Winlock City Council meeting started with the mention that the mayor and city council would be going into two executive sessions. The first being to discuss "potential litigation with the city attorney" and the second to "allow council to review the applications in a closed executive session for the Public Works position."

The Winlock Mayor and City Council 2016 Volunteer Appreciation Award was presented to Randy Pennington. Mayor Lonnie Dowell told Pennington the award is "in appreciation of all the hard work that you do volunteering." Randy Pennington volunteers with the Winlock Toledo Police Department and many other organizations.

Mike Hogg spoke on the First Street road closure. He asked if the road will be reopened. A motion was made by Councilman Tim White to open the road, seconded by Sarah Gifford, and the council voted unanimously to approve. The road will be closed for a short additional period while the sidewalk is being replaced.

Hogg also discussed Councilman Tim White being prevented from taking part in a vote at a previous meeting on hiring for the Public Works position. White had asked to see the applications and was told to recuse himself before it was granted. Hogg asked how the mayor, city attorney and council interpreted the law.

City Attorney Mark Scheibmeir stated, "I am not authorized to give my opinion," and then continued by saying, "That is not a proper question."

Mayor Dowell then stated, "[I] requested Mr. White to recuse himself using the wrong word. I said 'need' instead of 'should' ... I guess I am sorry for saying he needed to recuse himself instead of should recuse himself so there is no conflict of interest."

The permitting issue was again raised. At their last meeting the council had asked City Clerk Tedi Curry to check with the county and other municipalities to see what their fees are for permits. However, by the time of the council's most recent meeting only the county had yet been contacted. The last city council meeting was held on Dec. 27 and an email was sent to the county to investigate the fees on Jan. 4.

Councilwoman Sarah Gifford noted, "In the email [to the county] it stated, 'This particular council always wants things done yesterday,' so when we ask for it on the 28th and she waited until January 4, and we want things done yesterday, it kind of gets under your skin."

Gifford continued, stating that the council has never made such demands but only asked that things get done. The permitting issue was again tabled.

The fireworks ordinance issue was again addressed but also tabled after a dispute over city staff response time to applications from the public. Mayor Dowell maintained that staff response time is a matter of internal policy or procedure that the council does not have a say over, though this was apparently incorrect.

The council meeting ended with the mayor and the council going into an executive session to review the applications for the Public Works position, which was denied to them during the Dec. 27 council meeting.