OC man files ethic complaint against city

City official says nepotism occurred briefly because of fire annexation

An Oregon City man has filed a complaint against the city with the state Ethics Commission based on a case of nepotism he said has gone on at the city for three years.

Nepotism occurs when a person has direct authority over one of his or her relatives in the workplace and is illegal for public agencies by state law and city code.

The city has argued that nepotism didn't actually exist until about a year ago and was not immediately dealt with because the higher up of the two relatives, Vivian Finnegan, was getting set to retire when her daughter-in-law, Alisa Finnegan, was moved to a position under her supervision.

Vivian Finnegan is the city's human resources manager and has held that position for years. Alisa Finnegan had also worked at the city for years, but worked at the front desk under the supervision of Finance Director David Wimmer until 2007.

'During the time that she was here, she continued to take on additional personnel duties and also, because of that, we provided her with some training so she could do that better and little by little she learned the things and picked up more,' said City Manager Larry Patterson.

In 2005 Alisa Finnegan married Chuck Finnegan, becoming Vivian Finnegan's daughter-in-law. In that same year, Patterson said Alisa Finnegan's title was changed from office specialist to human resources assistant, but she still reported to Wimmer. Patterson said Alisa Finnegan interacted with Vivian Finnegan if she had questions, but she was not her supervisor.

Patterson said that in 2007 the city made some staffing changes, making Alisa Finnegan the human resources technician.

'That gave us the opportunity to move Alisa back into [human resources], and by that time she'd already been married,' Patterson said. 'But at that time Vivian was going to retire in July, so there wouldn't have been an issue, except then the fire district notifies the city that it's going to terminate the contract, which threw us into the quandary … The specter of what would've happened if [the fire annexation] had failed was a very large cutback that was going to have to take place.'

He said hiring someone into the human resources manager position with the possibility of it being eliminated within a year would have been very difficult, so they decided to keep Vivian Finnegan on through the annexation. Patterson said Vivian Finnegan would retire from her position at the end of the current fiscal year around July.

Paul Edgar filed the ethics complaint, saying he wanted an investigation into the matter.

'Discovery will allow for the facts to come out so people won't just sit there and speculate and point fingers,' Edgar said.

'How much did [Patterson] know of illegal practices going on,' Edgar said. 'Or was it just Vivian and her daughter-in-law? But without a proper discovery process it's all just speculation … Somebody's got to get the facts out there and they've got to be known, because there's no question that the city code was violated, there's no question in my mind that the state code was violated.'

Edgar said the state wouldn't let him file his complaint against the city or the city manager, so he had to file it against Vivian Finnegan. But he said that wasn't his intention.

'The intent was to have it filed against Larry Patterson, because the city code pointed responsibility to the city manager as kind of the CEO, to kind of manage the biz,' Edgar said.

But Patterson maintained that the city did what was necessary to best serve the city.

'From a policy perspective, serving the city, it was the best thing we could do given the situation we were in,' he said. 'If somebody wants to complain about that they can, but the city was served and we did the best we could given the situation that was handed to us.'