Two citizen groups say Cornelius Mayor violated city charter
- Christian Gaston
- Forest Grove News-Times - News
Read the complaints filed with the city online
Two new complaints with the city of Cornelius allege that Mayor Neal Knight violated the city's charter.
The city council voted to send both complaints to an independent body (likely someone affiliated with the League of Oregon Cities) to review the veracity of their claims.
If the investigations show that Knight violated the charter, the council could vote to censure or remove him from office.
In February the city council voted to drop investigations into a charge of charter violation by Knight by former city councilor Brad Coffey.
The vote came after another complaint, filed by Cornelius resident Dave Schamp, was reviewed by then-city-attorney Paul Elsner. Schamp claimed at the time that Knight had violated the city charter by making the removal of the general services fee a condition of Waffle's employment.
Elsner found that Knight had attempted to coerce Waffle into removing the fee, but hadn't violated the charter because Waffle had no authority to remove the fee without a vote of the city council.
In June, Knight, along with two allies on the council Jamie Minshall and Mari Gottwald, voted to fire Waffle. Now the city is dealing with a budget hole of $110,000 caused by a severance payment to Waffle triggered by his contract and Coffey is working to recall Knight, Minshall and Gottwald, who voted to table his complaint.
The first of the latest complaints, filed by Kevin Harmon, argues that statements Knight made to the News-Times on June 3 for an article published on June 8 (read "What went wrong in Cornelius?"), was evidence of an attempt to coerce Waffle.
Knight told the News-Times 'We need to get a real city manager, somebody who will earn their pay. I really question whether [Waffle will] fire anybody, I don't think he will. I don't think he has.'
And 'Richard Meyer, in my opinion, has screwed up so horrible he either needs to be put in another job here or he needs to go.'
Both statements show an effort on Knight's part to coerce Waffle into firing Richard Meyer, Harmon contends, which is a violation of the city charter, which leaves day-to-day operations of the city and the hiring and firing of personnel up to the city manager.
The city council as a whole can direct the manager during public meetings, but a single member of the council can't offer a "he goes or you go" style ultimatum to the manager without running afoul of Oregon legal precedent, according to the city's attorneys.
To read Harmon's complaint, click here.
Former Cornelius Mayor Bill Bash, who lost to Knight in last fall's election, filed a complaint with the city that alleges that in securing Richard Meyer's signature on a document that pledges not to seek land along Hobbs Road as part of an urban reserve or future Urban Growth Boundary expansion, he violated the city charter, which prohibits the mayor from managing city staff.
Bash also outlined a number of other complaints against Knight, including the appointment of Rebecca Edmison to the city's budget committee, even though, according to Bash, she had not applied in the appropriate amount of time for the position.
To read Bash's complaint, click here.