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Troutdale council turns up the heat on mayor

Councilors say Kight's behavior must change or he'll face serious consequences

In a follow-up effort to clarify its May 24 censure resolution of Mayor Jim Kight, the Troutdale City Council met in a work session Wednesday, June 15, to consider specific recommendations for how Kight could change his 'recurring patterns of behavior' that have created a lack of trust among councilors and city staff.

If things don't improve, councilors said, Kight could face renewed calls for his resignation.

All six councilors supported the censure resolution, a 22-point list that describes Kight's alleged violations of the city charter, municipal code and council rules; his uneasy working relationships with city staff, city councilors and former city administrators; and his tangling with city staff over the construction of an accessory building on his personal property.

During the Wednesday meeting, which lasted more than two hours, councilors aired additional grievances with Kight, taking issue with his lack of communication with the council, his statements about the council on KPAM radio following the censure, his micromanaging of the city's affairs and his requests to be reimbursed by the city for expenses that were deemed inappropriate.

Councilor Glenn White said trust issues and Kight's lack of credibility with him led him to conclude Kight should resign, adding he thinks the council is capable of running without a mayor.

'I think it's telling that the new councilors feel the same as the old councilors,' Council President Doug Daoust said after giving the five other councilors time to offer their suggestions.

A major issue among councilors at the meeting was Kight's lack of communication with them about his activities. Councilor David Ripma said he was concerned that Kight doesn't think it's necessary to have council backing on many issues.

Councilor Eric Anderson said he didn't want to see Kight's enthusiasm for the job diminished, but he also wanted him to include the council in his activities.

Kight defended himself on some criticisms, but said he found many of the councilors' suggestions were constructive and agreed to work closer with the council. He acknowledged that his style is 'ready, fire, aim' and that when he sees a problem, he wants to fix it immediately.

'My goal is to do the very best I can to try and serve each of my city councilors' who have differing backgrounds and personalities, Kight said. He encouraged councilors to 'communicate with specifics' if he did something wrong.

Expenses an issue

Kight also agreed with councilors' suggestions to revise the rules regarding travel and other expenses.

Under the Troutdale Municipal Code, the mayor and city councilors can be reimbursed for expenses related to the Oregon Mayors Association and League of Oregon Cities meetings; and for parking, mileage and meals when they're representing the city in an official capacity at meetings with public and nonprofit organizations. Mileage is reimbursed at 51 cents a mile. Expenses have to be approved by the city finance director.

However, Daoust said he and two members of the budget committee reviewed Kight's expenses over the nine months before April and found that more than half of the requests, totaling $864, should not have been reimbursed.

Kight's mileage expenses ranged from short trips to Fairview and Wood Village to a 107-mile roundtrip to Mosier and a 358-mile roundtrip to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, including $4 for toll bridge fees. Other expenses included $24 in parking fees on the same day in downtown Portland and $11.66 to pay for Pepsi and a cookie tray for the staff at Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office.

Daoust said many of the reimbursement forms did not include a description of the meeting's purpose, such as a meeting with Sen. Jeff Merkley.

'We have no idea on why you went on most of these trips,' Daoust said. He added that most of Kight's expenses should be covered by the mayor's $500 monthly stipend.

As a fix, the council proposed limiting the expense reimbursements to certain organizations, while all other trips must be approved by the City Council. The mayor and city councilors also will have to explain the meeting's purpose and how it benefits the city.

Kight said he had been told he could ask for mileage reimbursements for all trips outside of Troutdale. However, he agreed to revise the council expenses rule, noting he found the current rule vague and open to interpretation.

Based on each councilor's comments at the meeting, the council drew up a list of next steps:

• Kight should make the effort to have council backing before he speaks on an issue.

• There should be more constructive dialogue between Kight and the council outside of meetings.

• Kight should resume his weekly communications with the council about his activities, which stopped in January.

• Tighten the rules on what expenses will be reimbursed.

• Limit the time the mayor and city councilors can spend at City Hall outside of meetings.

• Kight's articles and photographs in The Troutdale Champion, the city's newsletter, should be limited. (Some councilors took issue with what they perceived as Kight's self-promotion.)

• Kight should offer his help to Fairview City Councilor Lisa Barton Mullins on Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation. (Kight previously served on the committee, but he was not re-appointed by the council in two no-confidence votes.)

The councilors also added the final line from the censure calling for Kight to resign if he did not change his behavior. Although White was the only councilor to call for Kight's resignation at the meeting, Daoust said White was not alone in thinking that.

At the end of the meeting, the council agreed to put its suggestions into an official document, which will be reviewed by City Attorney David Ross.