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The lawsuits keep rolling in Damascus

Citizens ask city to stop suing them

Everyone is still suing everyone else in Damascus, it seems.

At the Damascus City Council meeting Monday, Sept. 15, councilors made it clear they intend to appeal a Marion County Circuit Court ruling earlier this month when they lost their bid to declare a state law unconstitutional.

And the leader of a movement to disincorporate the city said he will file in the state Court of Appeals within a week.

As has been the case at nearly every Damascus City Council meeting in recent months, the citizen's comment part of the meeting was filled with comments reflecting — to put it mildly — extreme frustration of citizens because of continuing conflicts. Those problems start with the city's inability to adopt a comprehensive plan that has led to lawsuits against citizens who want to secede from the city, founded in 2004.

But several voices had a new sense of indignant anger following the city's recent legal defeat where Judge Claudia Burton threw out the city's complaints filed against the governor, the state of Oregon, Clackamas County and scores of citizens.

The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of House Bill 4029, passed earlier this year, which gave citizens the right to leave the city — because it has no comprehensive plan.

With his voice raised and glaring at the councilors, Hank Brown, who was the first person to file to de-annex under HB 4029, stuck to one topic: the failure of the city to adopt a comprehensive land-use plan.

“The only responsibility you had to do was come up with a comprehensive plan, like every community in the state,” he said. “You guys need to get it together.”

Brown said after the state announced earlier this year it would withhold $300,000 from the city of Damascus — because it had no comp plan — that Councilor Andrew Jackman had said “it was no big deal.” He also accused Council Jim De Young of telling people they didn't need to get attorneys after being sued by the city.

Brown said he wouldn't trust the council “with the last dime in my pocket” and threatened that when they leave office that they be prepared to have their tenures examined.

“Let's hope you are all squeaky clean because if you are not, there will be hell to pay,” he said.

Chris Hawes, manager of Citizens for Disincorporation, which lost a lawsuit filed against the city earlier this year to validate last November's election where a majority voted for disincorporation, said that issue is not dead and he will fill an appeal within a week to disincorporate the city.

“You are using my tax dollars to sue my fellow citizens,” he said. “When you have to sue to keep people in the city, what does that say about the city?”

Dave Gleason accused the councilors of “mean spiritedness.”

“You are destroying the city,” he said.

Steve Deters complained to the council that he filed to de-annex three weeks ago, but the city has refused to set a hearing date and asked them to “dispense with the lawsuit” against him and his family. He also said he will campaign to have the mayor's comprehensive plan defeated on the November ballot. Another comp plan, the original 2013 plan, will be on the March ballot.

“Mr. Mayor it doesn't matter how many doors you knock on, I will have been there first,” he said.

At one point in the meeting, Councilor Andrew Jackman moved to drop the lawsuits against citizens, but it died for lack of a second.

Not everyone who spoke was against the council, and property owner Les Poole said the city must protect its boundaries by resisting de-annexation of some of its citizens. He said he didn't trust anything about state government because of the problems with Cover Oregon.

“I'm not here to debate HB 4029, but there's a legal obligation for you people in front of me (the council) to do what you're doing,” he said. “It's so easy for folks to come up here and make legal opinions. The line between legal issues and political issues is pretty finite.” He then put the blame on Metro regional government.

“This is on Metro and Metro's comp plan,” he said. “It divided this community, didn't it? Steve Spinnett didn't do it all by himself.”

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