Cornelius could spend up to $50K to hire consultant

Costs for investigations, search for new manager pile up

Costs are piling up for the city of Cornelius, already struggling to backfill a $110,000 hole left in the city's budget following the firing of city manager Dave Waffle.

Monday night, the city council set up a date with an official from the League of Oregon Cities to prepare the search for a new city manager. That will cost the city at least $7,750.

Next, the city council learned that the Local Government Personnel Institute will investigate four allegations that Neal Knight, the city's mayor, violated the city charter in the lead up to Waffle's firing. That will cost the city $140 for every hour the firm spends on the investigation.

Then, the city council told interim city manager Paul Rubenstein to look into hiring a consulting firm that would examine the city's operations for cost savings.

'This is taking money away from being able to do other things,' said Council President Jef Dalin.

Dalin and city councilor Steve Heinrich wanted the city council to consider bringing in a retired city manager that could examine the city's operations and offer ideas for improvements.

City Councilor Jamie Minshall, seemingly objecting to the idea, said that was akin to asking a high school principal to examine the operations of a high school.

Councilor Mari Gottwald said she wanted a full audit of the city's operations.

Team 3 and turmoil

Since Knight, Gottwald and Minshall were elected in November, the city's politics have been increasingly volatile.

A recall effort aiming to remove all three from office is underway, led by former city councilor Brad Coffey.

The trio ran as a slate and promised to reduce fees and taxes at the city, but so far have only managed to enact a moderate reduction of the city's General Services Fee, which generates about 8 percent of the city's general fund.

With more and more spending being triggered by the decisions made on the dias, Rubenstein said the city's financial situation, already close to the line, could worsen.

'We're going to be tight,' Rubenstein said of the upcoming audit season, when the city's expenses and revenues will be balanced by an outside financial firm.

'If we continue to do this, we're spending money that was not budgeted,' Rubenstein said. 'As we spend more money, it creates issues.'

Lack of trust

Heinrich, speaking extemporaneously, called on Team 3 to stop spending money and let the city staff do its job.

'We need to clean up downtown,' Heinrich said. 'That's why businesses aren't moving here.'

But the staff is part of the issue. Since Team 3 was elected, each member of the bloc has made their distrust of city staffers clear.

Knight has said he'd like to have some, including Richard Meyer, the director of planning and operations, fired. But the city's charter precludes the city council from dabbling in the payroll.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated Knight wanted to spend up to $100,000 on a contract for a consultant. Knight says he said $10,000, which the city's minutes reflect.