Winlock's last minute special meetings violate Open Public Meetings Act

Winlock City Council has had so many meetings over the past week, it's difficult to keep track. They had their council meeting on Monday, December 10, when the City of Winlock was served with a three (3) million dollar lawsuit by Sam Patrick. Then there were three (3) Special Meetings on December 13, of which two were in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act. Finally, the meeting on December 17, 2018, for the second reading of the 2019 budget was cancelled due to the illegal first reading of the 2019 budget on the 13th. The First Reading of the budget has been rescheduled for December 19 and the second reading on December 20.

On Monday, December 10, the evening started with the City of Winlock being served a three million dollar lawsuit by Sam Patrick, Police Officer for the City of Toledo. On January 2, 2018, Mayor Don Bradshaw sent a letter to the City of Toledo officially notifying them that Winlock's intentions were to pursue restoring the Winlock Police Department and termination of the Interlocal Agreement prior to approval from Winlock City Council members. On February 27, 2018, Sam Satterfield with Hillier, Sheibmeir & Kelly P.S., former Winlock city attorneys, sent a letter to Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh and the City of Toledo outlining the Termination of the Interlocal Agreement between the City of Toledo and the City of WInlock for Law Enforcement services. In the letter it states "The City of Winlock requests that the City of Toledo reassign personnel," specifically Sam Patrick. The letter continues to state "Officer Sam Patrick is suspected of entering into restricted areas of Winlock City Hall and accessing court files without permission."

Toledo then asked the Sheriff's office to investigate the matter of Sam Patrick. The Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney, Jonathon L. Meyer, responded to Detective Gabriel Frase regarding the investigation. The letter clearly states "in reviewing this matter, there is absolutely no proof that Sgt. Sam Patrick had anything to do with any of the events alleged. And by "events alleged," I mean just that - "alleged." There is no proof anything actually happened. Certainly, it is odd that a computer was not found in the same condition as it was at closing time, but that does not mean something unlawful occured. In addition, there is ZERO evidence as to who, if anyone, is responsible."

The letter goes on to state "rather, this seems like some within the city of Winlock trying to find issue with the city of Toledo Police Department. It is no secret some within the city of Winlock want to terminate the contract with Toledo for law enforcement services."

The Town Crier has asked for comments from the Mayor regarding the lawsuit along with several other questions and was referred to the law firm of Floyd, Pflueger & Ringer, P.S. 200 W Thomas Street, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98119.

As of this date, the Winlock City Council has not approved the hiring of a city attorney or an attorney to represent the City of Winlock in the Sam Patrick lawsuit. In order for the mayor to hire a legal representative for the City, it must be approved by the city council. A special meeting could be called to hire an attorney for the City of Winlock for the Sam Patrick lawsuit. As of this date, no special meeting has been called regarding the hiring of counsel. The city council is the only authority for signing contracts and it is the Town Crier's understanding this has not been done.

On the agenda on December 10 was The First Reading of Ordinance 1070. The vote was 2-2 and Mayor Bradshaw tried to break the vote by himself voting for the budget. Former mayor, Lonnie Dowell, informed Mayor Bradshaw he could not break a financial vote. After a couple of minutes of others shouting "The mayor can not break a tie vote," Mayor Bradshaw agreed to a first reading on December 13.

Then, On Thursday, December 13, 2018, the Winlock City Council had three "Special Meetings" in one day, two without proper legal notification. For the first Special Meeting, notice was given to the public that the purpose of the meeting was First Reading of Ordinance 1070. By law a Special Meeting cannot deviate from the published purpose.

In the first Special Meeting, which council seemed to be confused about, council member Andrew Maloney stated, "The consensus was this was a budget workshop." Mayor Bradshaw then informed the council that it was the first reading of Ordinance 1070 which was the passing of the budget. After much discussion over the purpose of the meeting, no agenda was approved by the council, no action was taken by the council, and the meeting was adjourned. Once a meeting is adjourned, that's it, it's over. Once the meeting is over, nothing can be added or done further.

From this point, the December 13 Special Meeting gets more difficult to follow. Before adjourning the Special Meeting, Mayor Bradshaw recommended they adjourn the Special Meeting and convene a Budget Workshop (2nd Special Meeting) and he asked for a motion. Council member Connie Sneed made a motion for a Budget Workshop and it was seconded. The Budget Workshop was immediately convened. A Budget Workshop falls under the Special Meetings statute which requires sufficient legal notification. No notification to the public was given for the Budget Workshop. After a lengthy discussion regarding the budget, the Budget Workshop was adjourned. Again, no prior notice of the Budget Workshop means the public was deprived of the opportunity to be informed and to participate.

Then Mayor Bradshaw reconvened the Special Meeting (3rd) which had already been adjourned. Again, this was illegal, as there was not sufficient legal notification to the public of another Special Meeting. In the 3rd Special Meeting, Mayor Bradshaw stated, "I will take responsibility to pass this budget....This is the only alternative." Mayor Bradshaw stated that the budget must be passed "by the 21st or we shut down the city on the 1st." MRSC states this about not passing a budget: "However, to our knowledge, no local government in the state has shut down for the want of a budget." Winlock City Council did not have to pass the budget as written and could amend the budget, or pass any partial or complete budget if they chose. Several council members stated during both the Budget Workshop and the 3rd Special Meeting that they did not understand the budget.

The Town Crier reached out to Mayor Bradshaw for comments but instead was referred to the law firm mentioned above.